Beyond Utopia – Director / Editor Madeleine Gavin

A suspenseful, riveting portrait of the lengths people will go to gain freedom, BEYOND UTOPIA  follows various individuals as they attempt to flee North Korea, one of the most oppressive places  on Earth, a land they grew up believing was a paradise. At the film’s core are a mother desperate to reunite with the child she was forced to leave behind; a family of five — including small children and an elderly grandmother — embarking on a treacherous journey across the Yalu River and into the hostile mountains of China; and a man of God on a mission to help these desperate souls. Leaving their homeland is fraught with danger — severe punishment if caught and possibly even execution — as well as potential exploitation by unscrupulous brokers. Family members who remain behind also may face retribution. Yet these individuals are driven to take the risk. Gripping, visceral, and urgent, BEYOND UTOPIA embeds the viewer with these family members as they attempt their perilous escape, palpably conveying life-or-death stakes. The result is a singular, illuminating, and unforgettable experience.  Director / Editor Madeleine Gavin joins us for a conversation on how she was able to plug herself into the network of incredibly brave people, those willing to risk the consequences of escaping from North Korea and those willing to risk their lives helping them, putting herself in harms way and whether she fears retribution for her spectacularly compelling work.


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About the filmmakers – Madeleine Gavin has edited award-winning narrative and documentary films that have premiered at Sundance, Toronto, Berlinale, and Cannes, among others. Madeleine directed and edited the Netflix Original Documentary, City of Joy, centered around a revolutionary center in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. She is in production on a film that follows an indomitable group of octogenarians in New York City who, while facing debilitating illnesses, are finding transcendence through their relationship with an irascible, larger-than-life music coach. Madeleine is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 



100% on RottenTomatoes

“At all events, it’s an outstanding documentary.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

“Unforgiving, high-stakes and clear-eyed about the devastatingly brainwashing powers of elongated oppression, Beyond Utopia will be talked about well into the awards season with its extraordinary vision.” – Tomris Laffly, Harper’s Bazaar

“’Beyond Utopia’ is a staggering achievement, the sort of nonfiction project that takes unfathomable guts and skill.” – Lena Wilson, The Playlist

“Instantly essential.” – Brian Tallerico,

“Nothing is a recreation in Beyond Utopia. Instead, every image in this stark and urgent documentary is real, often gathered in mortal danger.” – Danny Leigh, Financial Times