Artistic Gurus are currently making an animated film about life in North Korea. We caught up with producer Frank Freeman to learn more about the anime film, titled “Goodbye Northern Sun”.
NKNEWS: So can you tell us a little about the details of your project and yourself? What kind of movie is it you’re hoping to make?
Frank: We are making an animated film based on a family in North Korea that undergoes much hardship under the Kim regime. We hope to use this family as an example of their people’s struggle. Obviously, we cannot set foot in North Korea as it is one of the most closed societies so we decided that animation would be a perfect way to tell this story. In addition, I became personally interested in helping any way I could since 2006 and wanted to find a way to use my art to help bring awareness to the issue. This will be a feature or near-feature length film.
NKNEWS: What motivated you to start this film? You are not living in Korea, and have no obvious relationship to North Korean affairs, so what led you in this direction?
Frank: Great question. In my high school days, I hung out with a “multi-cultural” group. Three of my friends in that group were Korean. I was always fascinated with them and their culture. It was so different yet so cool! Well, years later I came across a video on YouTube called “Children of the Secret State”. I thought “Wow, this guy has a camera in his briefcase and is brave enough to secretly film this!” That movie changed my life. It completely changed my way of thinking. From that point on, I made a pact with myself that I would do something about it.
NKNEWS: Do you think there are any benefits through telling this kind of story through animation, as opposed to the documentary format most other North Korean human rights movies have been?
Frank: Definitely, there are benefits. First as I mentioned earlier, filming a story is very difficult to do not to mention costly. We are an indie animation product and cost must stay low. There has been a lot of great work done in the documentary arena and we don’t intend to improve on what those great people have done. We hope to draw in additional audiences that may not know about North Korea but are interested in a good story and good animation. Ideally, our film will educate those new to the subject and energize all of us who continue to work toward the betterment of the North Korean people.
NKNEWS: How have you gone about researching the story, and in particular the scenery and atmosphere of North Korea?
Frank: This has been a long and sometimes difficult process reading the books and testimonies of survivors. It is the utmost importance to us that we tell an accurate story that honors these proud people. In addition to stories, we’ve reviewed hundreds of photos on Flicker and Google as well as blogs. We have an idea as to how the images and atmosphere of the film will look. Most of the scenes are derived from a compilation of actual places in North Korea or China. However in many cases, we must take some creative license.
NKNEWS: Do you feel comfortable portraying, and accurately capturing, a country you have never been to?
Frank: To be very honest, no. I hope that one day; we will all be able to freely go there. As this production moves forward, I find myself less and less comfortable. However, I don’t feel uncomfortable for this reason alone. The bigger reason is that this issue carries a lot weight and there are so many countless people who need help. I respect North Korea greatly and do not want to dishonor or disrespect them in any way. We hope our animation is helpful to the cause and not a hindrance.
NKNEWS: Do you think you’ll be able to say or show anything new about North Korea? Are you not worried that many in America (and other countries) are desensitized to North Korean issues?
Frank: What we will be portraying will be new in the way that it is told and shown. Desensitization is a fear that we’ve had and that is why this film will not be political at all and will not focus on military aggressions. We want the focus to stay strictly on the plight of the North Korea people. Most people that we come across here in the US where this topic is discussed do not have any real knowledge of the issues. As we pull in a new set of interested viewers, we hope that they will see the issues with fresh eyes and feel called to help.
NKNEWS: On a personal note, what would you like to see for the future of North Korea, and what would you like to see from America in regards to this?
Frank: Oh boy! This is a tough question. I would love to see the day of reunification. It would be amazing if the region could finally have the free and open elections that were supposed to happen in decades past. However, I’m not so naive to believe that a proposition such as this wouldn’t be extremely difficult. In the North exists millions of people that will need years of help both medically and emotionally. In addition, the South is very wealthy and I fear that they may apply an unfair influence. I feel that America should re-think all that it has done and is currently doing in the region. America should place a higher demand on the NK government to follow our requirements when assistance is given. America should demand that they are able to personally distribute any food and supplies provided so that those provisions make it directly to those in need.