9th Zurich Film Festival, Day 3

Scenes from the 9th Zurich Film Festival
 Brazilian Party
 Dior Party
 The Corso Cinema


Marc Wiese Interview - Camp 14: Total Control Zone

German filmmaker Marc Wiese throws a light on North Korea's labour camp system in the feature documentary, Camp 14: Total Control Zone. At the centre is Shin Dong-hyuk, a young Korean who was born in Camp 14, where he would also have died if he hadn't escaped, in 2005. His tales of horror are given extra weight by Hyuk Kwon, a former officer in Camp 22, and Oh Yang-nam, an ex member of North Korea's secret police.

Marc, is Camp 14: Total Control a film about how people can be conditioned by a system?

"Yes, exactly. There is one scene where Kwon is shown at home. It is 50-60 seconds, and it took me three months to get the access. But it was very important to show that he is a regular family father, like you and me. This raises the question, I say at every Q & A, of: 'Okay, it's very easy to talk about human rights; to live it is another thing. So, how would we react in a system like that?' So Camp 14 is, for me, a film about how a system is able to format three people."

The extent of Shin's conditioning is shocking.

"A little episode: Shin was being beaten every day - and a lot of times he was beaten really badly - so one day I said to him during the research, 'Hey, every day, 20 years, means more than 7000 times.' But he was not, and until today he is not, able to develop a real anger against the guards. He still thinks, 'I'd done something wrong, it was their right to beat me.'"

The line between perpetrator and victim becomes blurred in the film. In that respect it reminded me of Primo Levi's The Grey Zone.
"Yeah, it's fascinating. I know Primo Levi very well, and I like his work very much, because it's similar in a way. It's never so simple that you can say you have perpetrators, you have victims. And, of course, for me as a filmmaker it was very, very interesting to work with Shin and go into his world, and begin to learn more and more, and to find out more and more of his way of thinking."

The two guards seem like ordinary people. Is the film a warning, on one level, that under certain conditions, we might all be capable of acting like them?

"No, it's not a warning. A warning is too much. I just want to make people think. I don't want to give a warning. But don't take me the wrong way, it's a film about how the guards are formatted but still, in the end, you have to be able to act like that as a perpetrator. Me, personally, I never say I would be a hero in a system like that, a dictatorship. But, I am convinced that I am not able to rape a woman just because somebody is telling me, or the whole system is showing me, or the reality in the camp is showing me, I can do it.

"So, no, the perpetrators are no warning. I want to make people think with this scene with the family; I want, in a way, to confuse them in that moment. I told my assistant that if we use the interview without the scene, he's like a monster, a Hannibal Lecter, and that makes it very easy for the audience to distance themselves."
Is working with perpetrators something new for you?

"No, I've worked this way in other documentaries. I showed the audience people that appeared very kind and very sympathetic, and they said, 'What? Great guy!' And then suddenly they realised he's a real war criminal. Or they realised, from Palestine, he has sent 21 suicide attackers who blew themselves up in Jerusalem. I like to work that way. The audience has to think about it."

Read the entire interview here:

Interview copyright Stephen Applebaum, 2013


Zurich Film Festival

Zurich Bound

Launched in 2005, the Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) is a mere infant compared to Venice, the oldest film festival in the world, and Cannes, the glitziest.

Yet, in the short time that it has been operating in Switzerland’s largest metropolis, the ZFF has grown rapidly in size and reputation and now attracts some of the world’s most exciting new and established filmmaking talent.

Possibly because Switzerland has fared better than most European countries during the economic downturn (it has remained outside the eurozone), the budget for this year’s event has been increased, said ZFF’s co-director Nadja Schildknecht, allowing the organiser to scale up the cinematic programme, develop the content, invite a larger number of guests and schedule more industry events.

For the complete story, visit


Camp 14: Total Control Zone

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in a North Korean punishment camp, where he endured appalling brutalities until he escaped, aged 23. Now his story is told in a harrowing documentary

by Stephen Applebaum
The Guardian, September 20, 2013

Documentary-makers generally tackle torture at a distance. Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing, for instance, introduced us to a charismatic killer from Indonesia's anti-communist genocide who dances the cha-cha on the rooftop where he murdered hundreds of victims almost 50 years earlier. Camp 14: Total Control Zone is different. The German film-maker Marc Wiese's film tells of horrors that could be happening as you read this, in North Korea, in prison camps so vast that they show up on Google Earth.
Some are "re-education" facilities, where the inmates can hope to be released after a period of hard labour and immersion in revolutionary doctrine. The "total control zone", however, is a life sentence, with death the only exit.


Thomas Dolby Illuminates The Invisible Lighthouse

Thomas Dolby moves into filmmaking with the multimedia project, The Invisible Lighthouse.

What is The Invisible Lighthouse about? It’s about this lighthouse that was closed down this year, on Orford Ness, Suffolk, and it pulls together threads from my childhood and things from the local mythology, from the Rendlesham Forest UFO sightings through to the World War II invasion threat.

It sounds very nostalgic. It is, because the closing of the lighthouse has touched on a lot of childhood memories, and made me think about how we amplify and distort them. For example, I remember the beam of the lighthouse being blindingly powerful. It would sweep across the landscape and light up the clouds. But it was quite wimpy at the end and I thought maybe I just invented this thing.

Had you? It turns out that when I was a kid it was 30 times brighter than it was at the end.

You wrote, directed, shot, edited and appeared in the film – you must’ve known what you were doing… I’d never held a camera before, really, but I wrote and directed my early music videos and I love the editing process. And, actually, we’re working with software that has a lot in common with music software. At the same time, I’m not one to read a user manual – I just dived straight in. It was all shot within ten miles of where I live so if I screwed things up, I’d just go out the next day and do it over.

To read the full interview, visit