Crossing the Line

Director: Daniel Gordon
Screenwriters: Daniel Gordon

Institute History

  • 2007 Sundance Film Festival


In 1962, Private James Dresnok, a 19-year-old American border guard in the notorious Korean DMZ, deserted the U.S. Army by crossing over into communist North Korea. As one of only four American soldiers who defected to North Korea during the height of the Cold War, he was noticeably a stranger in a strange land. Although Dresnok was unsure about his future in the highly secretive communist country, the North Korean government found they could use his unusual circumstances in their propaganda campaign against the United States. Dresnok soon became a film star, playing the evil American again and again.

Crossing the Line expertly provides an in-depth portrait of the last American defector still residing in North Korea after 40 years. Director Daniel Gordon skillfully counterpoints Dresnok's own testimony against stark archival footage of the People's Republic and a haunting soundtrack. Further historical context is provided through interviews with his former commander and fellow soldiers, as well as a childhood friend who still awaits his return.

Crossing the Line is the unprecedented and complex story of a man who left the native country he felt unconnected to and found himself living in an alien nation he came to consider home.

— Lisa Viola

Screening Details


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