Beyond Utopia movie review & film summary (2023)

source : www.rogerebert.com

“Beyond Utopia,” directed by Madeleine Gavin, is an invigorating and often breathtaking look at, first and foremost, the disaffected people of North Korea who are persistently trying to deviate. It’s a harder journey than you might think. The demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South is literally impassable. Potential defectors must therefore move north to China. At that point they are captured and sent back to their country, where they are tortured and probably executed. Or they are picked up by predators who sell the women for sex work. Or they are handled by brokers who help them negotiate a trek through central China to Thailand or another province, where they can then be transported to South Korea for a price.

A title at the film’s opening emphasizes that the footage recorded by various attempted defectors, including the Ro family, whose lineage is followed by the film, is real. There are no recreations or dramatizations. This also does not apply to archive images of actual executions. It’s terrible stuff.

Other features of the photo include interviews with Lee Heyeon-Seo, the author of The girl with seven names, who now works as a human rights activist. Another story of apostasy follows Soyeon Lee, who tries to help her son, who has long been stuck in the North due to his youth and his father, where she is. She is aided in this effort by Seungeun Kim, a preacher who works with the often predatory “brokers” in the North to take down as many defectors as he can.

Gavin also provides a brief history of North Korea, a troubled state if there ever was one. The film claims that Kim Il Sung, the ostensible “founder” of the North Korean state and a favorite of Stalin, barely spoke Korean when he began ruling the country. (Other accounts dispute this.) Once the USSR collapsed, economic ruin for the country was imminent. Famine and starvation followed as even more followed Kim’s weapons of mass destruction programs to keep themselves afloat. The state’s depraved stranglehold on the population became increasingly deranged.

source : www.rogerebert.com

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