As North Korea’s political elite continues to pout and posture at American imperialism, it’s good to be reminded that there are real people living, struggling and suffering in that benighted country. ‘Camp 14’ is the story of Shin Dong-Huyk, a Korean refugee who was born into a death camp and expected to remain there his whole life. The film is built on commentary by Shin – often accompanied by simple but effective animated sequences, plus terrifyingly honest interviews with former guards. One recalls the rape and subsequent murder of a pregnant woman with matter-of-fact frankness.
It’s a remarkable story, but it’s undermined by some odd directorial choices: most damagingly, the large sections of Shin’s reminiscences overdubbed by a British narrator with the most soporific voice imaginable. Also, while the film depicts Shin’s eventual escape from Camp 14 in heart-stopping detail, the story of his flight from North Korea – and his first experiences of the world outside the fence – are skimmed over. A fascinating story, but an occasionally frustrating film.