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The Defector at Sheffield Doc/Fest

The DefectorOne of my favourite documentaries of the past few months must be The Defector: Escape from North Korea. And luckily, after taking on audiences worldwide, the film is now coming to the UK.

“With Kim Jong-un at the helm in North Korea, ‘Dragon’ is busy smuggling North Korean defectors across borders. His latest undercover trip with Sook-Ja and Yong-hee takes an unexpected turn when they are left stranded in China. This is only the beginning of an extraordinary 5,000 km journey. Their story reflects the reality of tens of thousands of North Koreans currently in hiding in China.”

As Emma Norton put it when she reviewed the film during IDFA last year, “Director and producer Ann Shin takes significant risks to reveal how tough it is to truly escape from one of the world’s most secretive and brutal authoritarian regimes”. No doubt this is the reason she has been invited by the government to screen the film in front of MPs on 11 June before showing it to a larger audience at Sheffield Doc/Fest where it is up for an Innovation Award.

I personally highly recommend you to see this film. Aside from the subject it has also been put together with great care and while continously ensuring none of the defectors would get into trouble over their participation in the film. If you don’t want to take my word for it, take a look at the trailer here:

In addition to the film, there is a companion interactive web doc that gives you the opportunity to experience what it is like to walk in a defector’s shoes as they attempt to make their way out of North Korea. It’s a great interactive project and no doubt will we see more and more of these kind of educational tools tied in with (especially campaigning) docs in the years to come. Please do take a look if you can.


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Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentaries and the film production industry. When she is not blogging or watching films, she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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