They were the Brangelina of ’70s South Korea—the romance between the debonair film director Shin Sang-ok and glamorous actress Choi Eun-hee took them to the heights of South Korean society. Fame took a toll on their love, but it also attracted unbelievable twists of fate. The two find themselves kidnapped by the North Korean regime, and they are forced to play along with a bizarre filmmaking project led by superfan cinephile Kim Jong-il. Enduring torture, imprisonment, and surveillance, their romance is rekindled, and they realize escape is only possible through filmmaking—but the smallest mistake in their plans could cost them their lives.
This film noir of the most twisted order is meticulously crafted with an analog-loving sensibility, offering incredible archive footage of the era that even includes rare clandestine audio recordings of Jong-il discussing his plot for a cinematic paradise. The tapes deliver a chilling yet fascinating glimpse into the psychology of the North Korean dictatorship and what happens when art, love, and megalomania collide.
Rob Cannan has worked in various roles on features, shorts, and music videos, including as Nick Broomfield’s associate producer on the docudrama Ghosts (2007 Sundance Film Festival) before directing the critically acclaimed feature documentary Three Miles North of Molkom. He is now creatively consulting a fiction remake of the film, slated for 2016.
Ross Adam has worked as a director, photographer, and editor on short films, music videos, art installations, and commercials. His and Cannan’s latest feature, The Lovers and the Despot, participated in Sundance Institute’s Documentary Edit and Story Labs and is world-premiering at this year’s Festival.