It’s seldom that I say a documentary shook me to the core.
But “Beyond Utopia” did just that. It’s a true thriller that shows life in North Korea as it seldom, if ever, has been depicted. It’s no surprise that it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.
‘Beyond Utopia’ (IMDb)
The star/hero is Pastor Seungeun Kim, a Seoul pastor who has spent years putting his life on the line, with the use of a network of “brokers,” to help people leave North Korea.
We watch as he guides a family that includes two parents, two small girls and a grandmother as they make their treacherous way, climbing mountains and trying to avoid the authorities while they make their way through the elements and the dark.
The Christian minister himself defected from the country earlier.
You’ll meet a woman who, 10 years previously, left her son in North Korea, and longs to see him again. She worries about the consequences her defection might have for her family.
Director Madeleine Gavin has creating a wrenching documentary. Part of it includes footage that had to be smuggled out of the country that shows a public execution.
Be warned: This is not the only upsetting scene. You’ll also see beatings and torture.
And you’ll see daily life in a country that has a state television channel, a state newspaper, where the government gathers human waste to fertilize farms, and where residents are urged to spy on each other.
Dictator Kim Jong-un is even more focused on nuclear weapons than his father, Kim Jong-il, before him. You’ll also see the propaganda machine that portrays Kim Jong-un as a messianic figure and teaches school children to despise America.
This is a shattering film that is one of the most disturbing I’ve ever watched. It deserves to be seen by every thinking person.
Running time: One hour and 55 minutes.
The movie will be shown Monday and Tuesday only at Cinemark, Davenport.
Watch the trailer here.