Director: N.C. Heikin


North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated nations. For almost 60 years, North Koreans have been governed by a totalitarian regime that controls almost all information entering and leaving the country. A cult of personality surrounds its two recent leaders: first, Kim Il Sung, and now his son, Kim Jong Il.

For Kim Jong Il’s 46th birthday, a hybrid red begonia named kimjongilia was created, symbolizing wisdom, love, justice, and peace. This film draws its name from the rarefied flower and reveals the extraordinary stories told by survivors of North Korea’s vast and largely hidden prison camps. Interviewed in South Korea, where they now live, their experiences are interspersed with archival footage of North Korean propaganda films and original scenes that illuminate the contours of daily life for a people whose every action is monitored and whose every thought could bring official retribution. It's a world where justice and peace are impossible.

First-time documentarian NC Heikin’s background as a dancer and performance artist has influenced her approach to this stylish and deeply moving rendition of modern-day torture and the search for recovery. Far from being a litany of travails or a simple indictment of a government’s actions, Kimjongilia is a totally original and ultimately inspiring consideration of the extremes human beings can suffer, and yet still hold out hope for a better future.

— Cara Mertes

Screening Details

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