Docpoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival


Beyond Utopia

At the beginning of Beyond Utopia, we meet Pastor Kim. We very quickly learn that this modest-looking man is in fact a notable figure in the Underground Railroad movement that helps defectors travel safely from North Korea to South Korea. However, the route is long and dangerous: as the border between the countries is basically impossible to cross because of landmines, the defectors need to travel through multiple countries in order to not be returned back to North Korea upon capture. 

We mainly follow two stories: the first, the story of a family that pastor Kim assists in taking this harrowing journey, and the second following a woman who has already defected, but had to leave her son behind when doing so. From these points of view, director Madeleine Gavin expands to a larger story about the whole cultural mindset of the North Korean people, the way in which the North and South Koreans live in two completely different realities, and how it feels to converse and traverse between them. Still, at its core are the incredibly tense and emotional stories of people who have had to leave their previous lives and all the lies they have been told about the world behind in order to survive.

Pyry Silomaa

Language: English, Korean
Subtitles: English
Length: 115 min
Age Limit: K16
Year: 2023
Production Country: United States

Director: Madeleine Gavin
Producer: Alexia Blaze, Rachel Cohen, Jana Edelbaum
Production Company: 19340 Productions
Distribution Company: Dogwoof
Editing: Madeleine Gavin
Music: Taylor Page, Adam Taylor
Sound Design: Jeremy S. Bloom