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by Indiewire
November 28, 2011 11:13 PM
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Project of the Day: A North Korean Defector

Here's your daily dose of an indie film in progress; at the end of the week, you'll have the chance to vote for your favorite.

In the meantime: Is this a movie you’d want to see? Tell us in the comments.

"The Defector: Escape from North Korea"

Tweetable Logline:

Watch the biggest quest on film - North Koreans on a dangerous 3,000 mile trek to freedom, with the help of an int'l underground railway.
Elevator Pitch:
The Defector follows ‘Kim’, a North Korean fugitive, and several of her young friends as they journey across Asia on a quest for freedom. There are roughly 300,000 North Korean fugitives who have escaped North Korea and are in hiding today. Helped by a network of aid workers, some will manage to find safety. Follow our team as we film this incredible modern day underground railway as they help transform these people's lives. This film's got a lot of heart, and it’s got guts. We need your help for our next production trip.
Production Team:
Producer/Director: Ann Shinn
Editor: Manfred Becker
Animation Director: Rob Pilichowski
Associate Producer: Sherry Barrett Boguski
About the Production:
"A North Korean refugee explained to me: 'You need a little evil in your heart to survive my country.' It’s poignant coming from a woman who witnessed her neighbour’s children die of starvation. Escape from a Communist country to arrive in a free country, and realizing you can live a life with food for every day, and with the freedom to choose: milk or orange juice? Jeans or jogging pants? Even the most mundane of decisions bring tears to our subject's eyes. It's been really moving to meet and work with people who have come through such an incredible journey." -- Ann Shinn
Current Status:
In production.
For more information and to support this film:

Be sure to check out our curated Kickstarter page for more information on projects we think you should check out.

If you have an in-the-works project and you'd like to be profiled in an upcoming iW Project of the Day column, submit yourself by filling out this form!

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  • Du Li | December 19, 2011 11:48 PMReply

    This is gonna be a strking movie about the North Korean escapees! I definitely look forward to the release of the movie! Recently, I have watched a lot of videos about North Korea and how badly people have suffered there, making me feel so sorry for them to be born there. To me, I think people who really repsect the leaders of the country must totally be brainwashed or act out. Therefore, I love to see a movie about how the North Korean escapees really felt when they were in the country, how they made the trip out successfully and what they are going to do after getting their own freedom. Best of luck to the filmmakers!!!!

  • Sang Kim | December 3, 2011 12:43 AMReply

    My grandfather and I were very close. I visit his grave religiously every month since his passing in June 2001. I spent many weekends with him sitting silently in his government-subsidized bedroom, staring out the window onto the street three floors below. Falling snow especially deepened that silence. I remember the winters with him very well. There was always a distinct feeling of homesickness during that time. My grandfather missed his family, his hometown, his feeling of closeness with geography and community. In the winter of 1951, he had fled his home, 2 hours north of Pyongyang, desperate, and in search of a job- of anything- to help support his family. He reached Seoul in January 1952, through a passageway not available to most of the less resourceful in the North. He was a defector. In 1953, while the DMZ fences were being designed by American (and Canadian) officers across the waist of the country, my grandfather dug graves and fed pigs, hoping to reunite with his family. He would not know till the very day he died that you would never set eyes on any one of them again.

    I love the living moment of this film in my own personal life. There is, in the poetry and the characters and the will-toward-freedom that speaks the contemporary colloquialism of my grandfather's own anguish and experience.

    Thank you, Defector Team, for telling a story about today that echoes through the generations of my own family.

    Wish you much luck.

  • Sherry Boguski | December 4, 2011 8:25 PM

    Thanks you so very much for sharing your story! Its so heart-wrenching. I hope you and your family have found peace, losing a loved one is never easy!! If you feel so inclined, please visit our 'share your stories app' on our Facebook page. Its a place for people with stories like your yours to connect and share.
    Wishing you all the very best!
    thanks again for the support and stay tuned - the movie will be out next year….

  • THE DEFECTOR TEAM | December 2, 2011 2:02 PMReply

    Friends and supporters, if you are on Facebook, please take a moment and vote for us to be Project of the Week: https://apps.facebook.com/my-polls/?poll_id=bc6xv1eh Voting closes Monday December 5th. Thank you!

  • Eva Stachniak | December 2, 2011 8:32 AMReply

    The project sounds fascinating. These stories of escape and displacement are poignant in many ways--instructive from both points of view, the person who escapes, and those among whom they find themselves. I am looking forward to this film!!!!

  • Marc | December 1, 2011 10:44 AMReply

    This is really fascinating, and I would definitely want to want this film when it's finished. I just watched the North Korea episode in the Vice Guide to Travel series, and man, talk about a bizzarre experience. I feel very sorry for the North Koreans.

  • Sherry Boguski | December 1, 2011 8:25 PM

    Hi Marc,
    The Vice Guide is crazy! It provides a surreal look into North Korea that is for sure. Check out our Facebook page too - we have an interactive 'Share Your Stories' APP that provides other insights into what life is like for North Koreans while also delving a little bit into what it takes to defect.
    Big thanks for the support!

  • HEEJAE | December 1, 2011 12:27 AMReply

    This film sounds really interesting, and I would definitely want to watch it when it comes out. This issue has always been addressed and shown to raise an awareness in South Korea, but not many people get the reality and people don't realize or understand why they would risk their lives for freedom from their own country.
    It would be a really great if I can be any help to those people....

  • Sherry Boguski | December 1, 2011 8:22 PM

    Thanks Heejae, your support is greatly appreciated as is your insight. We are hoping to to bring awareness to as many people as possible….also, check out our blog to see some of the aid organizations there. They do great work and are always looking for people to help out, some even bring food directly to the little ones most affected by famine in North Korea. Might be of some interest to you.

  • Sandra | December 1, 2011 12:05 AMReply

    Wow, this sounds really interesting~ I would definitely like to see this. I am in South Korea now teaching English to adults; it would be great if my students can watch it~~

  • Sherry Boguski | December 1, 2011 8:18 PM

    Hi Sandra - thanks for the support! Must be amazing to be in South Korea - hopefully we can bring the film to you after its release! Stay tuned….

  • Joonha | November 30, 2011 10:33 PMReply

    Sounds pretty interesting. I would totally see this film.

  • Sherry Boguski | December 1, 2011 8:17 PM

    Thanks Joonha! We really appreciate your support:)

  • Nathan | November 30, 2011 7:35 PMReply

    Saw the video on kickstarter. Unbelievable story to be told. Any chance it will be shown in the states?

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 8:35 PM

    We are scheduled for limited release fall of next year. We will also be in some American Film Fest's, hopefully near where you are. Stay tuned and thanks for the support! It really is an incredible story - I feel lucky to be a part of it….

  • Nancy | November 30, 2011 6:51 PMReply

    This is a great way to address the issues of North Korea today. I know many families who have escaped, so this film would hit touch me at heart. Looking forward to seeing and sharing it with others!

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 8:39 PM

    Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for the support - I hope the people you know that escaped are doing well. Such a traumatic thing to live through! I would encourage you to visit our FB page. We have created an interactive page that allows survivors of human rights abuses a forum to share their stories on. So far we have had great support. The stories of survival are incredible!

  • George Emerson | November 30, 2011 4:46 PMReply

    This is a great idea for a cinema verite narrative thriller. Timeless plot of the escaping slave/innocent prisoner. It's a wonder no one in the USA has thought of doing this before, given how North Korea is the antithesis of everything democratic and freedom-loving. Anyone escaping this virulently anti-American regime should be a hero for all Americans.

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 8:44 PM

    Thank you George! Your support is so appreciated! Stay tuned...

  • Anne | November 30, 2011 1:09 PMReply

    brava! sounds like a brave and courageous film, can't want to see it.

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 9:00 PM

    Thanks Anne! It really is a brave film - several team members have literally risked everything to help bring you this story. Not to mention the hundreds of aid workers and underground railway 'conductors' who have made it there lives work to help these people in need. Its all very inspiring! Thanks again for you support and stay tuned for the theatrical release late next year. Hopefully we will be showing near you.

  • kaz | November 30, 2011 12:54 PMReply

    So, when do we get to see this doc? looking forward to it . . .

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 8:57 PM

    Hi Kaz, we have a limited theatrical release slated for late next year with several international broadcasters also scheduled to air it then. Stay tuned…hopefully we will be showing near you:)

  • Cathy Marie Buchanan | November 30, 2011 12:19 PMReply

    So looking forward to this.

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 9:15 PM

    Hi Cathy Marie, thanks for the support - we can't wait to bring the film to you! Hopefully we will be have a theatrical release near you.

  • Christine | November 30, 2011 12:11 PMReply

    Looks fabulous--can't wait to see it!

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 8:55 PM

    Thanks Christine! You support is so appreciated!

  • Ben | November 30, 2011 11:31 AMReply

    I really want to see this.

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 8:54 PM

    Thanks Ben! We really want you to see it too…stay tuned - our limited theatrical release is scheduled for late next year.

  • Amanda | November 30, 2011 11:06 AMReply

    Looks amazing. What a great combination of unusual film techniques and truly compelling story.

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 8:53 PM

    Hi Amanda, thanks for your support! Early next year we will be launching an interactive website that will feature a great deal of unusual film and animation techniques to display a realistic portrayal of life in North Korea. Sounds like this might be up your alley….stay tuned:)

  • anar | November 30, 2011 10:10 AMReply

    yes, cant wait to watch it....an important film with a what seems like a very compelling story.

  • The Defector Team | November 30, 2011 10:52 AM

    Hi Anar, thanks for your comment and support! We will be updating www.thedefectormovie.com regularly about the project, including the dates of broadcast and release. Cheers, The Defector Team

  • Mike Cohen | November 30, 2011 10:07 AMReply

    An important story that needs to be told. I very much look forward to seeing it.

  • The Defector Team | November 30, 2011 10:51 AM

    Hi Mike, thanks for your comment and support! Feel free to visit www.thedefectormovie.com for updates, including the dates of broadcast and release. Cheers, The Defector Team

  • Ron Schur | November 30, 2011 8:58 AMReply

    Looks very compelling. Looking forward to seeing the movie.

  • The Defector Team | November 30, 2011 10:35 AM

    Hi Ron, thanks for your comment and support! www.thedefectormovie.com will be updated regularly about the project - feel free to visit us sometimes and keep in touch. Cheers, The Defector Team

  • Tom Cavan | November 30, 2011 7:27 AMReply

    a compeling story, I am looking forward to the release.......

  • The Defector Team | November 30, 2011 10:33 AM

    Hi Tom, thanks for your comment and support! We will be updating www.thedefectormovie.com regularly about the project, including the dates of broadcast and release. Cheers, The Defector Team

  • Peter Mosher | November 30, 2011 7:18 AMReply

    This sounds like an important movie to me. Anything that helps people escape regimes like north Korea will save lives.

  • The Defector Team | November 30, 2011 10:29 AM

    Hi Peter, thanks for your comment and support! It's important to us too, and glad you feel the same way. Feel free to visit www.thedefectormovie.com for updates. Cheers, The Defector Team

  • rachid filali | November 30, 2011 5:10 AMReply

    Excellent work

  • The Defector Team | November 30, 2011 10:28 AM

    Hi Rachid, thanks for your comment and support! Feel free to visit www.thedefectormovie.com for updates. Cheers, The Defector Team

  • Hannah | November 30, 2011 1:44 AMReply

    What an amazing looking project! I'm so excited to see the finished product.

  • The Defector Team | November 30, 2011 10:25 AM

    Hi Hannah, thanks for your comment and support! We're excited too. Cheers, The Defector Team

  • Michael | November 29, 2011 11:34 PMReply

    Any ideas on when this film comes out? I have a friend who is alive today because his parents made it out!

  • Sherry Boguski | November 30, 2011 8:48 PM

    WOW - Michael that is incredible! When I hear these stories my heart stirs. I would encourage you to visit our FB page as we have created a forum there for people to share their stories of survival on. So far the stories have been so inspiring. It is amazing what people can live through! Thanks for your support - also we will have limited theatrical release late 2012 as well as the TVO broadcast.

  • The Defector Team | November 29, 2011 11:43 PM

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for your comment and support! The film will officially be broadcasted on the Canadian broadcaster, TVO, as early as late 2012. Feel free to visit www.thedefectormovie.com for updates.

    The Defector Team

  • Jonny Bunning | November 29, 2011 10:45 PMReply

    Awesome project! I'm blown away by the visuals for the interactive component. Look forward to seeing the complete movie & exploring the content online.

  • The Defector Team | November 29, 2011 11:42 PM

    Hi Jonny,

    Thanks very much for your kind words and your support! Our interactive component will be released mid 2012. Feel free to visit www.thedefectormovie.com for updates.

    The Defector Team