Meet the Filmmakers: Andrzej Fidyk--'Yodok Stories'

Over the next few weeks, we at IDA
will be introducing our community to the filmmakers whose work will be
represented in the DocuWeekTM Theatrical Documentary Showcase, August 8-14 in New York City and August 22-28 in Los Angeles. We asked the filmmakers to share
the stories behind their films-the inspirations, the challenges and obstacles,
the goals and objectives, the reactions to their films so far.

So, to continue this series of conversations, here is Andrzej Fidyk, director of
Yodok Stories.

Synopsis: North Korean Great Leader
Kim Il Sung ordered the seed of class enemies destroyed to the third
generation. Anyone in a family with a "criminal" is considered guilty by
association. That is why entire families are sent to labor camps with life sentences,
and without court hearings. Today more than 200,000 are imprisoned, subject to
the worst kinds of slave labor and torture. Of the many hundreds of thousands
who have lived and died in the camps, only a few have escaped. In Seoul, South
Korea, these escapees decided to expose the
camps through a controversial musical based on their own experiences.

IDA: How did you get started in documentary

Andrzej Fidyk: My life adventure with
documentary filmmaking began completely by chance. I studied economics. After
graduation I worked for a foreign trade company for two years, but I hated that
work. At that time Polish Television announced a contest for the position of production
manager, which I won. I find it funny that at the time of starting my work for
Polish TV, I had no idea that something like documentary film existed. After
two years of learning this new business, suddenly I had a chance to direct my
first documentary, George Walks through
the Country
. It was quite successful and won a prize for debutants at
Cracow Short Film Festival. For me it was a big surprise as I had not much
knowledge about making films at that time. I just tried to tell the story in the
most attractive way. I realized then that telling stories is my strong point.

What inspired you to make Yodok

AF: In 1988 I
made the film The Parade inside North Korea.
Since then, all the things concerning this super totalitarian country have been
very close to me. For quite some time I had thought about how to present a
North Korean concentration camp in a documentary film since, for obvious
reasons, you can't just go in there with a camera. And from this, the idea of
making the theatrical performance showing the life in such a camp came into my mind.

IDA: What were some of
the challenges and obstacles in making this film, and how did you overcome

AF: The main
challenge was making things happen, starting from finding the right people,
finding money and organizing everything in a very far away country of a different
culture, mentality and very different language. Also, for many of the North
Koreans, it was difficult to take part for fear of consequences to their
families in North Korea.
So, we experienced participants pulling out of the production.

the North Korean regime did not want us to make this project, so both cast and
crew of the performance received death threats, and we feared people would
somehow be hurt, that the stage would be bombed or that somebody's family would
be sent to the camps. However, the North Korean defectors were extremely
determined to continue and carry through with our project, so we had no choice
but to do the same. Another thing was that all the stories told about the
horrible things happening in camps in North Korea. That affected me
personally very much and I did not really take it well. I knew that I had to
make a good and interesting movie from the things that gave me nightmares at
night. That was definitely the biggest challenge of making this film.

IDA: How did your vision for the film change over the course of the
pre-production, production and post-production processes?

AF: All the decisions about the final shape of
the film were made during the editing process.

As you've screened Yodok Stories-whether on the festival circuit, or in
screening rooms, or in living rooms-how have audiences reacted to the film? What
has been most surprising or unexpected about their reactions?

AF: So far the
film has only been shown once in the cinema. What struck me strongly was the
very, very, very long silence after the screening. People said that they were
totally shocked and moved.

What docs or docmakers have served as
inspirations for you?

AF: My
inspirations are always things that happen to people in the world. The stories
are taken from life all over the world of various people.

Yodok Stories will be
screening at the Village East Cinema in New York
and the Arclight Sherman Oaks (Calif.).

To view
the DocuWeek schedule in New York City,

purchase tickets to DocuWeek
NY, visit

To view
the DocuWeek schedule in Los Angeles,

purchase tickets to DocuWeek at the ArcLight Sherman Oaks, visit