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The Lovers & the Despot


Biography / Documentary / Thriller

Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN


Top cast

720p.WEB 1080p.WEB
901.26 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 37 min
P/S 9 / 33
1.63 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 37 min
P/S 15 / 48

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by paul2001sw-18 / 10

A cinematic mystery

To outsiders, the North Korean government seems not just cruel but downright bizarre, no more so than in this story of the time that Kim Jong-il, then heir apparent to the Presidency, allegedly kidnapped two famous people from South Korea's film industry so that North Korea could outshine its neighbour. Some said they went willingly: what is less ambiguously true is that they did indeed make films for their "dear leader", and in the end fled, in fear of their lives. It's a very odd tale, although actress Eun-hie Choi tells her side of it convincingly. But although as defectors the protagonists provided western intelligence with their best view yet into the mind of Kim, he remains mostly an inscrutable figure, whose true intentions (and grasp of reality) we can only guess at.

Reviewed by bob_meg4 / 10

Compelling story but not compelling storytelling

This film is a shining example of a concept that many filmmakers grapple with today: simply presenting an intriguing story, then stepping back and turning on a camera does not assure a successful film. This failure of execution is of particular death to a documentary because the whole point is connection with the audience on an emotional level, thereby creating engagement and usually suspense --- suspense often much more cogent because it's not fiction. Talented doc-makers can achieve this with virtually any subject: food, talking-head philosophers, even type-settings ("Helvetica").

You'd think a doc about two filmmakers, Choi and Shin, kidnapped separately, then reunited and held against their will by a deranged dictator would be a snap to pull off.

But The Lovers and The Despot largely fails to achieve more than minimal engagement (unless, I guess, if you've never heard of the Kim dynasty or North Korea) because it rarely scratches the surface of the event itself or even the Koreas most of us know only from news footage. The film's pacing is extremely problematic in its sluggishness. It seems improbable to NOT know the basic premise even before going into this film: Struggle, abduction, pretend submission, veiled surveillance of the enemy, and escape. Yet it's forty minutes into the film before we exit act one and Choi is taken.

Yes, the Kims and particularly Kim Jong Il are huge mysteries. You could argue they are way more fascinating than Shin and Choi (who come off many times as shallow and facile. I doubt this, but when asked what films she is proud of Choi says "the ones that win awards"). Do we learn much about Choi's time --- FIVE YEARS --- with the dictator? No. It sounds for the most part as if she were left alone. I'm not discounting or minimizing Choi and Shin's ordeal. I'm attempting to relay how ineffective and downright boring much of this film is because the director, Paul Courtenay Hyu gives us so little information via interviews to engage with. For example, Shin obviously suffered after being sent to SIX camps after attempting escapes. How? No one knows or bothers to tell us.

I'm sure this film will have more resonance with viewers who have first-hand experience with totalitarianism. But that's not engaging with the film itself, it's engaging with the issue. We never get inside Choi or Shin's heads except to sympathize with their truly horrific ordeal of separation and that's a real shame. I feel this is largely the director's fault and the editing doesn't freshen anything either. For the most part the cutting is what you'd expect from a standard Behind The Scenes bonus feature, matching bits of Shin's film to the narrative in a numbing predictable way.

It's too bad but not too surprising to find many to this day don't believe Choi and Shin's story. This film doesn't go far in convincing anyone that it's beyond fiction, and that's the real tragedy since I do believe it's fact.

Reviewed by samuelding858 / 10

The director, his ex-wife actress and the dictator turned kidnapper who kidnaps them.

The above tag line should pretty much sums up about the documentary feature, which tells the story most people might never heard of. The Lovers and the Despot explores the rather unusual love-hate relationship between a very unlikely trio: South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee and her ex-husband movie director Shin Sang-OK, where both were kidnap by their greatest fan, Kim Jong-il.

Written and directed by Ross Adam and Robert Cannon, the documentary tells the story behind one of the biggest kidnapping mystery that takes place in 1978. Featuring interviews with Choi herself, she personally explains to the audience about her career as an actress in South Korea movie industry, the romance and failed marriage between her and the late Shin, and a impossible reunion which takes place in the most unlikely place by the most unlikely person: Kim Jong-il's residency.

The documentary also covers the incident from the different perspective: the traumas faced by Choi and Shin's family member, especially their two adopted children; British police officers conducting the investigation on the disappearance of Choi and Shin in Hong Kong, where both were kidnapped in different locations; the South Korean CIA agent investigating the kidnap, which links to the study of North Korea movie industry and Kim's passion towards movies; Japanese film critic who assisted Shin to passed the message to their family back in South Korea; an former North Korea adviser who works for Kim and shares the unknown side of the late North Korea dictator. Together with some conversations from Kim himself, which was recorded by Choi and Shin secretly, audience gets an deeper insight on the man who was seen as a tyrant of the world.

Rather than having the usual conversations filled up the documentary, The Lovers and the Despot provides the audience with tonnes of rare footage, ranging from video clips from the movies made by Choi, Shin and Kim to photos and archival records. Not only does it keep the audience engaged, it also provides everyone an chance to watch something that is rare and unlikely to be seen on the mainstream media.

The Lovers and the Despot is one of the most important documentaries that document the evolution of North and South Korea film industry. Most importantly, we get to see a different side of the man in question itself.

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