Camp 14: Total Control Zone (R13)

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Review byKatherine McLaughlin4/10/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

A harrowing, important and shocking documentary which tells the story of Shin Dong-Hyuk who was born into captivity in a North Korean death camp in 1983.

What’s it all about?
Marc Wiese interviews Shin Dong-Hyuk about his experience growing up in a North Korean death camp, how he escaped, and his current life in Seoul, South Korea. Wiese also engages in frank discussion with high ranking North Korean officers involved in the prison-camp system.

The Good
Wiese uses CGI animation to illustrate camp 14 and it works extremely well alongside Dong-Hyuk’s narration to paint the most unimaginable of places. There are currently 200,000 inmates in North Korean camps like the one Shin-Dong Hyuk grew up in and that truth is what makes this already harrowing documentary all the more difficult to watch. Though the experience may be in Dong-Hyuk’s past, it is one that haunts him daily, as he complains of nightmares and the inability to fit into society, pining to return to a home he understands. At the age of four he witnessed a public execution citing this as his earliest memory, this and the many years he spent in the camp being tortured and dehumanised, has had a devastating effect on him.

The Great
Dong-Hyuk says he did not know what human affection was until the age of fourteen when an old man took it upon himself to nurse him back to health after he had been tortured to within an inch of his life. His descriptions of the world from which he came and the strangeness of life outside, including contemporary society’s preoccupation with money, is beyond moving.

Interviews with the Northern Korean officers, including Hyuk Kwon, who guarded camp 22 are genuinely disturbing, as he openly describes how he tortured, raped and killed prisoners and the rewards he got for carrying out these deeds. He doesn’t revel in the telling but he seems desensitised by it, as he believes he was simply following orders.

Worth seeing?
Camp 14: Total Control Zone is not only an urgent documentary about crimes against humanity, it is also a complex portrait of a man numbed by a regime of oppression which will leave astounded that these practices are still continuing to the present day. Probably the most depressing film you’ll watch this year.

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Content updated: 20/07/2019 08:29

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