Hot Docs 2018 Review: “To Kill Alice” (2018) ★★


The tension between North and South Korea has always been dangerously high. One sentence or just a word can turn it into a legal matter. Maybe now it is a bit different, but the specific event captured in “To Kill Alice” tells otherwise.

“To Kill Alice” follows a South Korean Woman Shin Eunmi who strongly rejects communism. After visiting North Korea, the woman ends up writing a book about her vacation that causes a backlash, attacks from media, protests and even legal issues come up until the call for her deportation for liking or enjoying something her country, South Korea, can’t even think of – North Korea.

All what Eunmi says is that North Korea has very delicious beer or The People of North Korea have high hopes for their young leader which was enough for war to be declared against her. Even though those sentences were innocent and harmless, it did appear like a bad chemical reaction with all the dire consequences. Giving one interview after another, the woman tries to convince the government that they cannot tell her what to like or not, or, either to praise one or another country based on their request.

As you watch the film, you see the hardship Eunmin or Hwang Sun had to face due to their visit to North Korea. All those homemade videos are simply outstanding if not historic, but rather being treated as a dangerous weapon that can force people to do the unthinkable, especially those who strongly believe that the North Korean or the people living there are evil.

In a sense of describing how one sentence can bring up a bigger issue, Sangkyu Ki’s documentary film can claim an award for that. But there was something missing in the entire film I could not simply explain. Indeed, there is a complete understanding between the viewer and the documentary subject, or even the issues they had to face or even why Eunmin was deported. But the film fails to hold it till the end, to have a logical ending, or even, if I may say, a pace that needed to be found so the viewers like me and you will be on the same page at all times.

Having that said, I don’t or never meant to say “To Kill Alice” is a documentary film that fails to open up fully the political or the social issue that occurs in South or North Korea. But it does leave a gap in terms of Eunmin’s intention or even struggle, so I could kind of agree with anything that is being brought up to my attention throughout the film. In spite of lacking that dramatic touch, the film is a good work from the South Korean filmmaker who I wish had done a much better job at delivering the message from Eunmi. Otherwise, it just stays there, leaves it as an ordinary story that rings no significant impact into our mind or thoughts, which is, in reality, very important when we are about to watch an important story.

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