Nothing to Envy

Nothing To EnvyNothing to Envy is a feature length animated film about life inside one of the most impenetrable and brutal regimes in the world. Told through the stories of defectors, this film will combine testimony with rich and vivid animation to provide an unprecedented insight into the lives of ordinary North Koreans.

North Korea remains the most inaccessible – and the most unfilmable – place in the world. A country that bans foreign journalists and restricts movement, it has hitherto been impossible to capture the reality of what has occurred here since the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was established in 1948. Since that time reports have emerged of atrocious human rights abuses and widespread poverty and famine. It is a country that affords its citizens little in the way of pluralism and freedom of expression, with one of the most tightly controlled medias in the world (Reporters without Borders ranked freedom of the press in North Korea as 177th out of 178).

The cult of personality that surrounds Kim Il Sung, his son and successor Kim Jong Il (who died in 2011) and now the young Kim Jong Un, has been well documented. They exist behind the mask of an unrivalled propaganda machine, which attempts to cut its citizens off from the rest of the world. However since the 90s more and more people are attempting to leave. To defect is a huge accomplishment. These are people who, despite a lifetime of propaganda, indoctrination and fear, decide to risk their lives and make a run for it. If they are caught or repatriated they face severe punishment – imprisonment in a labour camp, torture or even execution. Their families too will be punished.

In 2009 the award-winning LA Times journalist, Barbara Demick, wrote the groundbreaking non-fiction book Nothing to Envy, based on the testimonies of six defectors living in South Korea. Demick provided an unparalleled insight into the lives of ordinary North Koreans and the hardships they face. It is a comprehensive account, revealing profound narratives of romantic relationships, interpersonal conflicts and stories of triumph and despair – all set against the backdrop of a brutal regime. Hearing these individual stories helps us to grasp the magnitude of the numbers – 2 million deaths due to famine; 200,000 people currently imprisoned in labour camps. The book went onto win the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize in 2010.

Building on Demick’s technique this film will use the testimonies of defectors to create a screenplay based on their stories and reveal to the rest of the world what really goes on behind the 38th Parallel.

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