Tokyo, Japan – June 5, 2020 – For Eiji Han Shimizu, creator of True North, the horrors of the North Korea’s political prison system are personal. Some of the relatives and family friends he grew up hearing about are still missing and unaccounted for following successive political purges. As a creative filmmaker, he knew the topic was one he had to tackle. In June, his feature length animated film, which has the support of a well-known Hollywood artist, will debut at France’s prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival.
True North tells the story of a fictional family caught in the North Korean political prison system. Based on years of research and interviews with former North Korean political prisoners, the story incorporates elements of the accounts of numerous individuals and families who have been affected by the North Korean system of ‘three generations of punishment’, the practice of punishing the family members of someone accused of a crime, either in place of, or in addition to, the perpetrator. The film’s focus is on Yo-han, a nine-year-old boy. After his father disappears, the rest of his family is sent to a notorious political prison camp and he must learn to survive the harsh conditions, find meaning in his perilous existence, and maybe even escape.
In 2018, the True North film project was awarded a four-month residency at TED NYC during which Shimizu enlisted the assistance of a global network of activists and artists to improve the narrative, storytelling and score of the film. Shimizu was also able to engage well known Academy Award nominated composer and co-creator of Disney’s Mulan score, Matthew Wilder, to compose a moving score for the film.
For Shimizu, the film’s premier is the first step in what he hopes will bring increased awareness to what is taking place in North Korea. “I wanted to craft a story that demonstrated what these families are going through. As a third generation Korean-Japanese who grew up hearing about the families and friends we had lost, I needed to seek an effective outlet to raise awareness and catalyze change,” says Shimizu.
The Annecy International Animated Film Festival takes place from June 15-31, 2020 in Annecy, France. The festival was begun in the 1960’s and is the world’s most prestigious animated film festival. Due to COVID-19, on-site events in Annecy have been canceled and will instead be streamed online to a worldwide audience. Audiences can participate in the festival and stream True North, which is rendered in 3D animation in English and has a run time of 94 minutes at www.annecy.org.
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Eiji Han Shimizu