Magnolia Pictures has acquired worldwide rights to Rob Cannan and Ross Adam’s The Lovers And The Despot, a documentary that tells the true story behind the kidnappings of a celebrated South Korean actress and her director ex-husband by late North Korean dictator and film fanatic Kim Jong-il, who made them his personal filmmakers.
The pic bowed this week at the Sundance Film Festival and will get a theatrical release this year after it plays in Berlin, where Magnolia International is selling worldwide rights at the adjacent European Film Market.
In the 1970s, after reaching the top of Korean society following a string of successful films, actress Choi Eun-hee was kidnapped in Hong Kong by North Korean agents and taken to meet Kim. While searching for Choi, her filmmaker/lover Shin Sang-ok also was kidnapped, and following five years of imprisonment, the couple was reunited by the movie-obsessed Kim, who declared them his personal filmmakers. The pair planned their escape, but not before producing 17 feature films for the dictator.
The film is a Hellflower and Tigerlily production presented by the BFI and Creative England, co-funded by BBC Storyville in association with The Documentary Company, Influence Film, ZDF/arte, NTR and SVT with support from Media Programme of the European Union, Sundance Institute Documentary Fund and Tribeca Documentary Fund.