47 MorE Info j The teaser trailer for “While They Watched” can be found on www.whiletheywatched.com. Groove Korea: How did you decide to make this flm? Jake Smith: My interest was ignited when my sister gave me a book called “Nothing to Envy” by Barbara Demick – it was a real eye-opener. Many films have been made about North Korea, but none that really asked the viewer questions about their involvement in the continuation of the status quo in the DPRK. I thought we should ask these ques- tions of the bodies we elect to act on our be- half, like the United Nations; we have to ask if they are doing what we want them to do on this issue. For me, they aren’t (doing it). So I thought I’d make a film about a time where this issue had passed in order to make people realize they can affect things right now. It may sound like an unusual approach but when people realize they can help, maybe they will. How will this flm differ from other docu- mentaries about north Korea? This film is like no other documentary you have seen before about North Korea. I have done my research and spent some time watching what is out there. “While They Watched” is set in the future and talks in hind- sight about what the DPRK was, how it acted and what people and the international govern- ing bodies did about it. No other documentary I know of has taken this approach. What does this flm mean to you person- ally? The message of this film, and the questions it asks, mean a lot to me. The defectors’ lives and their stories should mean a great deal to everybody because, at the end of the day, any one of us could have found ourselves in their shoes. We can’t choose where we are born. What do you hope to accomplish with it? What can anybody do about North Korea? Can we really change what is happening there? Does any of what we do matter? I’m unsure. These questions boggle the minds of people far more qualified than me. The film runs alongside our campaign to put pressure on the Chinese government to adhere to in- ternational law and stop forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees. I think if we can mount pressure on China on this issue, it will hugely relieve pressure on North Koreans. How can people help the citizens of north Korea? I think being a conscious and active partic- ipant in politics or global affairs would mean that one was aware of what was going on in other countries. If you know that in the DPRK people are being tortured and killed for trying to oppose a dictatorship, how could you not want to help them? There are many NGOs working for North Korean people. I would suggest getting in contact with them and volunteering with various projects they have running. Donating money to help rescue ref- ugees who are hiding in China is a direct way to help people who are really going through a tough time. NGOs like Liberty in North Korea and Justice for North Korea do good work. What surprised you the most during the process of gathering research? I was shocked by how much information is out there. There is a staggering amount of information about abuses in the DPRK. Mi- chael Kirby’s Commission of Inquiry report from March 2014 examines in categorical de- tail the human rights abuses in the DPRK. It makes bleak reading. He has also said there are human ovens reminiscent of the Nazis. It’s truly shocking. What has been the most diffcult part of creating “While They Watched?” Directing and producing a project isn’t easy — it takes time, energy, and then more time and energy. You really have to believe in what you’re doing. One of the most challenging things about making a film is finding talent- ed people who are on the same page as you and who really want to see this message out there. Once I began posting on social net- working media about the film, I began to get people approaching me who wanted to work on it. I guess I was lucky. How open are north Korean defectors to talking about their experiences? One defector I know lied about where he was from to people for five years before his new girlfriend at the time told everyone he was actually from North Korea! It really de- pends on the person. I’ve met a number of defectors: Some are newly escaped who don’t speak of the horrors they endured so easily, and then some spend all their time speaking about North Korean human rights, like Yeonmi Park. What are some roadblocks you’ve faced during production? I’ve been rejected by interview targets, had my funding applications turned down, lacked the equipment I needed and made technical mistakes. A host of errors that strangely only made me want to achieve more. There are al- ways obstacles or roadblocks on productions, but as long as they don’t outweigh the posi- tives and you stay committed to the message, then you can normally ride with them. How has this flm affected you? At times it has made it difficult to think about anything else. More so than any other film I have worked on, this feels like it could really help people, and therefore I feel pas- sionate about getting this story to people. It has made me a more determined person and value the freedoms most of us take for grant- ed. A by-product of making this film is that it has brought me into contact with many pas- sionate people, some of them defectors, who I have made good friends with.