British filmmaker Jake J. Smith is preparing to release his hard-hitting documentary on Kim Jong-Un’s North Korean regime. ‘While They Watched’ shines a light on the personal stories of those who have suffered at the hands of the North Korean government, and asks why the West is doing comparatively little to end human rights abuses inside the mysterious dictatorship.
Spanning difficult topics such as China’s forced repatriation of the North Koreans (who manage to escape the horrors of their birth country only to be forcibly sent back by the Chinese government), the valiant efforts of many North Korean defectors to force the United Nations to try Kim Jong-Un in the International Criminal Court for systematic human rights abuses, and ongoing ‘information attacks’ by South Koreans activists, ‘While They Watched’ is difficult but important viewing.
Jake Smith, an experienced Director/Producer in his native UK, was shocked to discover the extent of which the suffering of North Koreans is overlooked in Western media. He resolved to delve into the tragic personal stories that reveal the human side of something that is often portrayed as an abstract, distant idea in Western media. In his words: “From the Seth Rogen film ‘The Interview’ to any number of Buzzfeed listicles mocking Kim Jong-Un’s haircut, North Korea is very much there in Western popular culture, but only as a big joke at the expense of the millions of people suffering under what’s been described to me as a cruel and nightmarish regime. North Korea only seems to make the news when it tests its nuclear weapons, and not for the human rights abuses going on in that country everyday. It almost seems as if the West only wants to talk about what is going on in North Korea when it is a direct threat to us. I made this film because I wanted to show the side of story that hasn’t been portrayed yet. The real suffering of the real people living there and who have escaped from the Kim family dictatorship, and to encourage the people of the world to campaign to end these atrocities.”
The film features highly emotional interviews and interactions with prominent defectors from North Korea, including the former prison officer Ang Myong Chol, and Yeonmi Park. Smith follows Yeonmi’s preparations to deliver an incredibly emotional speech (all in English) telling the story of her terrible escape from her birth nation, and her commitment to making North Korea’s human rights abuses a more prominent and pressing issue for the rest of the world.
Smith also manages to gain access to Park San Hak, the infamous South Korean activist who regularly organizes balloon drops over the closed-off terrain of North Korea to distribute USB sticks to indoctrinated citizens. Containing a selection of South Korean TV shows and the obviously controversial American film ‘The Interview’ which heavily lampoons Kim Jong-Un, these data drops are one activist’s piece-by-piece attempt to reveal the terrible truth of their brainwashing to the people of North Korea, and encourage the steady rise in anti-government feeling that is being reported from within the dictatorship.
Viewers of the film often-express surprise when they learn of the many human rights abuses exposed and told by Smith’s breakout film, and ask him what they can do to help. Smith and the defectors who feature in the film urge anyone stirred to action by ‘While They Watched’ to join the film’s official campaign. Full details are available on the Campaign section of the ‘While They Watched’ website.
The documentary will be released via iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Vudu in major territories including the US, Australia, Japan, Canada, and the UK on September 19 and 20. Over September and October, the film will have been released in over 100 countries and in 13 different languages. A Full listing can be found on the films’ website.
The film has been unable to secure distribution in South Korea, which perhaps reveals the unwillingness amongst broadcasters there to deal with such a difficult and perhaps unpalatable issue so close to home. However, ‘While They Watched’ will be featured in a special screening at the Houses of Parliament in London for a government committee on North Korea.
While They Watched is available to preorder through US iTunes now. The film was produced by Tusko Films, Sliced Pictures and Square Eyed Pictures.
Smith’s next film is due to take place in a maximum-security prison in America and is tackling the over population of the lifer population. For updates check his website Tusko.uk.
Website: tusko.uk / slicedpictures.com / sqep.co iTunes: http://apple.co/2bmLGO9