BUTTER Takes Crowd on a POV Escape from North Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is anything but democratic, and anything but for its people. For the majority of North Koreans, life under the totalitarian regime of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un is beset by fear, famine and futility. Escaping this crushing existence is nigh impossible… but some do. Some are fortunate to meet the right connections that can smuggle them out of the country, but soon learn that crossing the border is only the first hurdle.

Last week, the ADC’s film series "BUTTER: A Night of Pop Culture and Popcorn" screened The Defector: Escape From North Korea, a gripping documentary by award winning Korean-Canadian filmmaker Ann Shin.

Ann’s movie follows the story of a group of young women who decide to risk everything when they put their lives in the hands of "Dragon", an enigmatic smuggler who has been spiriting people out of North Korea for a number of years. Using native North Koreanswith hidden cameras to capture life inside the oppressive nation, Ann herself catches up with the group once they have been brought across the border into Northern China. Their joy is tempered by the stark realization that their journey is far from over. They must still travel thousands of miles through China, and at any given moment they could be turned into the Chinese authorities and deported back to North Korea or worse. And Dragon still needs to be paid…

This particular BUTTER screening drew a packed house with many of the attendees of Korean descent. Director Ann Shin herself was in attendance, as was Pablo Vio, creative director of JAM3, a Toronto-based digital agency that created a fully immersive interactive POV experience for The Defector. Attendees were able to ask Ann and Pablo numerous questions about the entire experience, from the dangers of filming in China without government authorization, to the motives behind the film’s subjects. Afterwards, the audience got to chat one-on-one with the pair, and got to try out the interactive experiences on monitors set up around the room.

The Defector is perhaps the most gripping documentary we have showcased at BUTTER, and we were honored to have Ann and Pablo visit from Canada to discuss their project.

Stay tuned as we announce the next films in the BUTTER series. If you’re a filmmaker looking to screen, contact ADC Producer Zack Kinslow, zack@adcglobal.org

Photos courtesy of Erik Valind, ADC Member