Beyond Utopia

Beyond Utopia is a powerful and insightful documentary about a brave and selfless pastor who helps people leave one of the most oppressive places on Earth – North Korea.

You might expect, given the context, that Madeleine Gavin’s film would be full of reenactments. Not so... impressively, there are no recreations here.

The film's crew accompanies the refugees where possible and, when that is not a viable option, uses mobile phone footage. Beyond Utopia is, as a result, incredibly immersive as it takes us on the treacherous journey from North Korea.


The conditions are challenging, the danger is real. The 'brokers' that they rely on to complete their journey are often exploitative, unscrupulous and only interested in money. The refugees severe punishment if they are caught - including the possibility of execution. Family members left behind will likely be targeted by the authorities and face retribution.

The film really makes you think about the reasons why these people want to (or have to) leave their home country.

Gavin adds further context about by way of talking heads and secret mobile phone recordings that show us what life is really like in North Korea. You begin to understand why its people, after so many years of propaganda and brainwashing, might believe that they are living in paradise - especially compared with life in countries like the US.

This is a heartbreaking documentary, but also an important one - joining the likes of Flee, Fire At Sea and Midnight Traveler in putting a human face to the refugee crises facing the world.

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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