2007 WORLD DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION FEATURE! It’s sad to see someone born in America defect to Communist North Korea. In a way it shows that our country can seem like a bleak choice (or, you know, not). This is the story of one American guard at the North/South Korea border, a man who was so fed up with the life he led in America that he defected to North Korea a few years after the Korean War. The overall story is interesting, but I have to say that the man the story is about isn’t.
Private James Dresnok was 19 when he left the South Korean side and surrendered to the North Koreans. Since 1962, Dresnok has lived and raised a family in North Korea. As a child, Dresnok was abandoned and found himself as a juvenile delinquent at the age of 15. With no education, Dresnok signed up for the U.S. Army at 17 and even felt out of place there. When Dresnok crossed the line into North Korea, three other U.S. soldiers joined him and all four men became celebrities. The four men even starred as evil Americans in Kim Jong Il directed propaganda films. Today Dresnok has a family of three boys and a wife and spends most of his time drinking excessively, chain smoking like no other, and going off on random tangents of the North Korean teachings (these random commentaries are the worst aspect of the entire film)
Daniel Gordon directs the film, and it has to be said that the footage he uses, both archival and newly-shot footage, is put together in a seamless fashion that makes for an interesting documentary. I personally love all of the old footage from the Kim Jong Il directed propaganda films because, let’s face it, how else would we see this footage?
Christian Slater is the narrator, which for no reason had me laughing as early as seeing his name in the credits (a giggled “wha?”). I really can’t explain why but maybe it is because he is a bit of an odd choice for narration, with that voice of his that just screams “Heathers.”
Like I said earlier, Dresnok has an interesting story to tell he just isn’t that really an amazing person to photograph. The guy had no filter and I understand that it is the filmmaker’s choice to choose which footage is in the film, but I have to say that most of the stuff Dresnok says is just so out there and ridiculous. Even though I have a bit of a problem with Dresnok, he is still tolerable in a sense, and he didn’t hinder the film that much.
That said though, the film was still interesting in the sense that the story is unique and the film is so visually stunning it keeps the audience entertained the entire time, particularly the archival footage. It is just too bad that the man himself wasn’t that interesting of a person.