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Six Questions with Filmmaker who Explores North Korean Escape in Documentary

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

Saved, Escape from Kim's Regime, directed by Thea Elisabeth Haavet, screens at the Churches Making Movies Christian Film Festival in October 2019.

Q. What is your film background?

A. I have been working in national TV in Norway off and on from 1995 as a researcher, concept developer, reporter, director and editor for documentaries, docu-series, infotainment and other TV programs. Some of the time I worked for a Christian TV production company that produced programs for mainstream TV in Norway. I also developed my own documentary projects from around the world. In 2014 I started working for Stefanus Alliance International, a Christian missions and human rights organisation, with a special focus on freedom of religion and belief for all. As a film and development producer, I have been traveling the world with a camera, as a one-person-crew, filming the stories of the persecuted in places like Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Korea. From the summer of 2019, I will be working as an independent filmmaker again.


Q. As a Christian, how do you see yourself impacting the film industry?

A. I think I will be part of producing stories with a Christian worldview and stories of hope and redemption. Also, I see it as my calling to make stories that empower the people whose voices would not otherwise be heard, and inspire people to stand up for justice and a better world. In my filmmaking, I strive for excellence and integrity in all aspects of the production.

Q. What was the biggest challenge you overcame to make Saved, Escape from Kim's Regime?

A. Working in an organization, there was not much time for pre-production. I had never been in South-Korea either, and never met most of the people I would be filming or seen the locations. So, it was a big challenge to not being able to plan the shots in advance, but to have to improvise everything on a short 8-9 days trips. Also, it was a big challenge to quickly build trust with the refugees, and to find someone who were comfortable with being on screen. Most North Korea refugees are very afraid of speaking out freely – because of safety issues – and because of the control regime they have experienced at all their lives back home. Adding to that, I had to use a translator, which made it even more challenging.

Q.. Who are your biggest influences in film and why?

A. From I was quite young I always watched a Christian reporter called Tom Kristiansen from Norwegian Broadcasting Company, the main TV-channel in Norway, who courageously reported and made TV-programs from all over Africa. His excellent work made most Norwegian understand the complexity of the African continent, and the beauty as well as the challenges, so much better. He never portrayed Africans just as victims needing help, but always focused on their dignity and strengths. He has continued to do this all of his life, and he has been one of my role models.

Q. What is the funniest or weirdest thing that has ever happened to you on set?

A. I was part of a small film team making a documentary in Papa New Guinea about the life of a Wycliffe missionary family who stayed there for more than 15 years and translated the New Testament to the local language. As the local customs were very different, a lot of weird and funny things happened. It was considered rude to look someone in the eyes, so when I tried to interview one man, he looked away all the time while he answered. I also interviewed a 80-year old man who had been a cannibal a long time ago, as the whole community had, and while he was laughing, he told us what part of the human body they liked best to eat. Now most of the village had become followers of Christ, and the whole society had been transformed.


Q. What is your favorite Bible verse? And how does this influence your filmmaking?

A. I have several favorite verses, and one I like concerning filmmaking is Proverbs 31:8-9: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."


#CMMCelebrates

#escape from North Korea

#Christian Film Festival


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