North Korea. Your house is on fire. What do you try to rescue first? Your kids? Your pet? No, the first thing you reach for is the portrait of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un and his father and grandfather that is hanging on your wall, as mandated by the authoritarian government. Everything else can wait.
Such is the bizarre and grim reality of North Korea that emerges in Beyond Utopia, the award-winning documentary directed by Madeleine Gavin. She obtained remarkable footage surreptitiously recorded in the secretive, isolated state that shows what life is truly like for ordinary people – people told from birth that their leader is a human god who demands and deserves total fealty.
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Despite the North Korean regime’s attempts to brainwash the populace into believing they live in an earthly paradise, over a period of years hundreds of thousands of people have risked death to try to escape. It’s a journey fraught with every risk imaginable. Gavin joins Deadline’s Doc Talk podcast to discuss her film, revealing how she was able to document one family’s desperate attempt to flee – two young kids, their parents and 80-year-old grandma. The tense scene unfolds in real time as a South Korean pastor who has dedicated his life to aiding would-be escapees tries to shepherd them to freedom.
Gavin’s documentary has won awards at festivals around the world, beginning at Sundance where it claimed the Audience Award, and it recently earned four nominations for the upcoming Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards. Find out why Beyond Utopia has emerged as a leading contender for Oscar consideration by listening to the latest episode of Doc Talk, our podcast hosted by Oscar winner John Ridley and Deadline’s Documentary Editor Matt Carey.
Doc Talk is a production of Deadline and Ridley’s Nō Studios, presented with support from National Geographic Documentary Films.
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