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After his father disappears and the rest of his family is sent to a notorious political prison camp in North Korea, a young boy must learn to survive his new world’s harsh conditions, find meaning in his perilous existence and maybe even escape.
Eiji Han Shimizu is a manga producer, Zen master, TED Resident (2017) and multi-award winning filmmaker. Born as an ethnic Korean in Japan, he learned the tragic destinies of many Korean-Japanese citizens who migrated back to North Korea after World War II. Eiji's works are centred around humanity and happiness.
Film Review: This compelling debut from writer-director Eiji Han Shimizi offers a necessary, gruelling and beautiful animated account of a North Korean labour camp inspired by the testimonies of those who escaped. After his father disappears, nine-year old Yo-han, his mother and his younger sister are taken to a labour camp without trial. It soon becomes clear that kindness can kill you in this environment and everyone is out for themselves. Gaunt-looking inmates fight each other for food scraps and are encouraged to mend their “traitor hearts” at large-scale snitching sessions - accuse a neighbour of a fictional crime and receive extra rations. As he grows up, Yo-han must search for meaning in this brutal world. The film’s 3D animation shines when the changing landscape is rendered in vibrant colours that stand in opposition to the inmates’ day-to-day drudgery. Theirs is a world of scant beauty, yet they must search for it to survive the harsh conditions. Yo-han’s mother lives a life of kindness, whilst his sister brings colour to their lives through her flower murals on the wall of their hut. True North is an insightful film which not only tells of a barbarity that is still happening in North Korea, but also explores the bonds of family, and the new family that adversity forces you to form. Ali McClary