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NZIFF: Beyond Utopia


  • Fri 25 Aug 2023, 7:30pm


All Ages


Listed by

Lisa Feyen

In this astonishing, edge-of-the-seat chronicle, the camera follows audacious, high-risk quests to escape from North Korea, and the pastor who plans them, with a rare intimacy and emotional power.

In its third generation of dynastic dictatorship, North Korea is one of the most caged corners of the world. Across the border in Seoul, the unlikeliest of action heroes, middle-aged pastor Sengeun Kim, has devoted his life to the near impossible: getting defectors out. Beyond Utopia chronicles first-hand these knife-edge attempts.

A mother who has escaped seeks the exit of a son she has not seen for a decade. A family of five embarks on a jaw-dropping journey, over barbed wire, past watchtowers, crossing rivers and mountain ranges, involving various “brokers” with various motives. All the while, Pastor Kim risks his own life time after time, driven by the story of his North Korean wife and the loss of a son.

The personal stories of resettled defectors, together with commentary from experts, give context to proceedings. But the escapes themselves are the engine and the heart, the closeness of the camera bringing an intimacy and intensity to the defectors’ astonishing pursuit of freedom.

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