the lovers and the despot trailer

The story chronicled in the new documentary The Lovers and the Despot sounds like a joke, which only makes the truth of it feel all the weirder and all the more horrifying. In 1978, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il abducted South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and actress Choi Eun-hee (who were estranged lovers) and forced them to help revitalize his struggling film industry. What followed was truly stranger than fiction and directors Ross Adam and Robert Cannan look to chronicle every beat of this incredible tale in The Lovers and the Despot. You can get a sample of what to expect in the newly arrived trailer.

There’s a strong chance that you’re already familiar with the basics of this story, which has been chronicled in many articles over the years as well as Paul Fischer’s 2015 book A Kim Jong-il Production. The drama is palpable: two former lovers are forced to work together after the tyrannical leader of a Communist dictatorship forces them to create art (i.e., propaganda) for his country. The details make it even weirder, as Kim Jong-il himself was a serious film connoisseur, considered himself a filmmaker, and wanted his new captives to create a Kaiju movie that was a metaphor for the rise of Communism and the evils of capitalism. And that’s before you delve into how Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee plotted their escape, which was some serious spy-movie stuff.

I’ve read about these events so many times that I’m intimately familiar with every beat and I’m still interested in checking out The Lovers and the Despot. That’s how fascinating this whole story is. For fans of international cinema and espionage and real-world politics, this promises to be a real treat.

Here’s the official synopsis:

THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT tells the story of young, ambitious South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok and actress Choi Eun-hee, who met and fell in love in 1950s post-war Korea. In the 70s, after reaching the top of Korean society following a string of successful films, Choi was kidnapped in Hong Kong by North Korean agents and taken to meet Kim Jong-il. While searching for Choi, Shin also was kidnapped, and following five years of imprisonment, the couple was reunited by the movie-obsessed Kim, who declared them his personal filmmakers. Choi and Shin planned their escape, but not before producing 17 feature films for the dictator and gaining his trust in the process.

The Lovers and the Despot is set to open in the United States on September 23, 2016.

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