New Film “True North” Depicts Gruesome North Korean Prison Camps
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - AUGUST 4: In this handout from the World Food Programme, a malnourished North Korean boy, 3 year-old Jong Song Chol, is fed a vitamin and mineral-enriched porridge supplied by the United Nations World Food Programme at a hospital in Sinyang county, on August 4, 2004 in South Pyongyang province, North Korea. The United Nations World Food Programme says that millions of North Koreans are chronically malnourished. (Photo by Gerald Bourke/WFP via Getty Images)
Gerald Bourke/WFP via Getty Images

This year, director Eiji Han Shimizu debuted his first feature film “True North” — an animated story that speaks to the inhumane brutality of North Korea. Set for a theatrical release in Japan in 2021, the film has received strong reviews, winning the Free Spirit Award – Special Mention at the Warsaw International Film Festival and drawing praise at the 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival.

The film “contains a raw message of hope, and the possibility of finding meaning even in the darkest of times,” according to Donican Lam from Japan’s Kyodo News.

While an animated film, “writer-director Eiji Han Shimizu’s True North is definitely not for kids,” notes Jordan Mintzer from The Hollywood Reporter. It is a gruesome, chilling look at a North Korean prison camp replete with starvation, executions, disease, rape, and so on. 

In the film. a boy, along with his older sister and mother, are forced into a labor camp after their father is jailed for a supposed “political crime.” In the camp, they must learn to survive among the perilous conditions.

“I thought it would be important to tell these difficult stories through a very accessible medium such an animation,” director Han Shimizu says, “I had been looking for a project to work on, and then I realized — maybe this is my calling.” 

Despite the fact that an estimated 120,000 prisoners are held in North Korean camps, no known photographs of the compounds exist, leaving Shimizu to rely on firsthand accounts from former North Koreans.

“When it comes to North Korean issues, we have heard the horrendous stories,” he said, “but using animation and attaching human faces, a human world, to these stories — I’m hoping that people are moved emotionally, not just intellectually.”

Notably, Ji Seong-ho — the North Korean defector who was a guest of President Trump at the 2018 State Of The Union — went to the “True North” debut screening at the Bucheon film festival. It “touches on all aspects of human rights in North Korea: children’s rights, treatment of women, freedom of religion,” he expressed

“The movie made me think, what am I doing for North Koreans right now? Am I doing the best I can do for them right now?” he added.

“True North” is disquieting, but a must-watch account of the struggles faced by countless North Korean civilians living under the oppressive Kim regime. 

It is our civil and moral duty as Americans who are cognizant of the splendors of freedom to not neglect the innocent lives being tormented by North Korea, China, and allies in the East. Shimizu’s debut is a bold and courageous film that Americans — and people everywhere — should make every effort to watch once it is widely available.

Gabe Kaminsky is a writer and student. His work has been featured The American Conservative, HollywoodinToto, RealClearPolitics, The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner, and elsewhere.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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