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.