While They Watched - Square Eyed Pictures
While They Watched - Square Eyed Pictures

The Guardian

“people are missing the bigger picture: the trauma people went through and the stress they suffered”, said Smith. It’s not a question of a hidden agenda, he adds, “when they tell their stories I think they truly believe them”.The Guardian, 14 August 2015

The Telegraph Yeonmi Park

“This worship of the Kims was reinforced in documentaries, films and shows broadcast by the single, state-run television station. The indoctrination starts as soon as you learn to talk ”.The Telegraph, 25 September 2015

Groove Magazine Logo

“The documentary, which is set in the future in a fictional world where the Kim dictatorship has collapsed, mixes interviews and news footage to present first-hand witness reviews and provide tear-jerking testimonies on experiences with the regime”.Groove Magazine, 8 October 2015

Eastern Kicks Logo

“North Korea has fallen, or at least that’s what London-born director Jake Smith would have us believe. His latest documentary While They Watched has caused quite a stir amongst national and international press this week, and it is easy to see why. Claiming that society has become ‘wilfully blind’ towards Kim Jong-un’s harsh dictatorship, Smith’s film calls on world leaders, and society alike, to use the power of hindsight to make real change”.Eastern Kicks, 19 August 2015

The Korea Herald Logo

“The film stresses the abuses faced by North Korean defectors and people campaigning against the regime. Justice for North Korea founder Peter Jung is shown harassed by police in Seoul during an anti-N.K. protest, while balloon launches carrying information critical of Pyongyang and basic necessities are halted by South Korean authorities”.The Korea Herald, 26 August 2015

NK Watch Logo

“NK Watch wants to introduce a new documentary on North Korean human rights which also includes an interview with NK Watch’s director, Ahn Myeong Chul. This documentary covers not only testimonies on North Korean human rights but also current and future view on North Korea”.NK Watch, 14 September 2015

echo24 logo

“We see an announcement, North Korea has fallen. People are celebrating on the streets of Seoul as news reports broadcast to the world. This is the start of a revolutionary feature documentary…“.Echo24, 19 August 2015

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While they Watched is a 90-minute feature documentary about North Korea set in the future, that looks back at the collapse of the Kim dictatorship. The film questions the morality of the current inaction by regional and global powers towards the North Korean dictatorship.

Using interviews, archive and observational footage, While They Watched draws on the power of hindsight. After hearing the tragic backstories of defectors who were first-hand witnesses to the brutality of the regime, the film questions the morality of the current inaction by regional and global powers towards the North Korean dictatorship.

Director Jake J. Smith compiles a collection of testimonies from former North Korean gulag soldiers and propaganda agents, ex-leaders of the ‘underground railroad’ through China, professors of Korean history, hardened activists, NGO leaders, and defectors who risked their lives to tell their stories hoping to free the minds of North Koreans. Testimonies are given in the past tense from the context of an imaginary future after the collapse of the regime. This gives the interviews a unique quality allowing contributors distance and clarity to better reveal key local and international players in the unfolding disaster, and what nations, institutions and individuals tried in an attempt to change the fate of the country.

The film carefully highlights the activities of certain defectors and activists, revealing underground activities largely unknown to the outside world. Their stories, the direct action many are using to impact the regime, and the threats they face, paint a frightening picture of life in North Korea.