2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: ASSASSINS

ASSASSINS | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

ASSASSINS
Ryan White investigates the bizarre story behind the assassination of the half-brother of Kim Jong-un.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

The mysterious murder of North Korean royal family member Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia sparks a captivating global investigation. At the center of the story, two women are on trial for the murder. Are the women ruthless assassins or political pawns in a twisted game?

The investigation goes far beyond the headlines, probing further into each woman’s upbringing, one in rural Indonesia and one in Vietnam, and, ultimately, what led them to participate in an alleged prank show that ended with Kim Jong-nam dead. ASSASSINS questions every angle of this murder case, from human trafficking to high-level political espionage to the inner dynamics of the North Korean royal family.

Filmmaker Ryan White (THE CASE AGAINST 8, ASK DR RUTH) returns to Sundance Film Festival with another suspenseful, heart-wrenching exploration of a vital story of the moment. Equal parts rigorous investigation and empathetic portrait, ASSASSINS shines a light on the global ramifications of this case and the life at stake for two young women in a dangerous plot.

Some Background:

Director/Producer:

  • Ryan White
    Past Sundance docs:

    ASK DR RUTH (2019)
    THE CASE AGAINST 8 (2014)

    White picked up the Sundance US Documentary Competition Directing Award for THE CASE AGAINST 8, which went on to be shortlisted for the Academy Award and nominated for an Emmy. He also directed the Emmy-nominated Netflix docuseries THE KEEPERS.

Producer:

  • Jessica Hargrave
    Past Sundance docs:

    ASK DR RUTH
    THE CASE AGAINST 8

    Hargrave is White’s producing partner at Tripod Media. She has worked on five of his features as well as THE KEEPERS. Hargrave also served as a past advisor to Sundance’s Women’s Financing Intensive.

Co-Producer:

  • Kristin Weiland

    Weiland previously associate produced White’s SERENA and THE KEEPERS for Tripod Media.

Associate Producer:

  • Grace Oathout
    Past Sundance docs:

    ASK DR RUTH

    Oathout is also part of Tripod Media, and worked on THE KEEPERS.

Executive Producers:

  • Doug Bock Clark

    Clark is an acclaimed journalist who wrote a longform story on the assassination for GQ, “The Untold Story of the Accidental Assassins of North Korea.”

  • Dan Cogan
    Recent past Sundance docs:

    SHOOTING THE MAFIA (2019)
    BISBEE ’17 (2018)
    OF FATHERS AND SONS (2018)
    OUR NEW PRESIDENT (2018)
    WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR (2018)
    BENDING THE ARC (2017)
    DINA (2017)
    ICARUS (2017)
    STEP (2017)
    TROPHY (2017)
    UNREST (2017)

    Cogan, the Oscar-winning co-founder and chairman of Impact Partners, has recently launched Story Syndicate, his own production company in partnership with acclaimed filmmaker Liz Garbus. He also serves as executive producer for fellow 2020 Sundance titles SPACESHIP EARTH and US KIDS, in the US Documentary Competition; EPICENTRO, in the World Cinema Documentary Competition; and UNTITLED KIRBY DICK/AMY ZIERING FILM, and GIVING VOICE, in Documentary Premieres.

  • Geralyn White Dreyfous
    Recent past Sundance docs:

    ALWAYS IN SEASON (2019)
    THE GREAT HACK (2019)
    SHOOTING THE MAFIA
    306 HOLLYWOOD (2018)
    GENERATION WEALTH (2018)
    BISBEE ’17
    OF FATHERS AND SONS
    OUR NEW PRESIDENT
    WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR
    BENDING THE ARC
    STEP

    The Oscar and Emmy-winning co-founder of both Impact Partners and Gamechanger Films also has produced several Sundance fiction and VR alumni projects and has served as a creative advisor for Sundance’s Catalyst Forum. For the 2020 festival, she also serves as executive producer for SPACESHIP EARTH, US KIDS, GIVING VOICE, UNTITLED KIRBY DICK/AMY ZIERING FILM; as well as THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS in the World Cinema Documentary Competition; AGGIE in Documentary Premieres); BORN INTO BROTHELS in From the Collection; and executive producer/key collaborator for the New Frontier exhibition PERSUASION MACHINES.

Editor:

  • Helen Kearns
    Past Sundance docs:

    ASK DR RUTH
    INVENTING TOMORROW (2018)
    THE CASE AGAINST 8

Assistant Editors:

  • Darshan Kembhavi & Oscar Vazquez

    This is the first Sundance credit for both Kembhavi and Vazquez.

Why You Should Watch:
Returning to the true-crime terrain of his hit docuseries THE KEEPERS, White carefully traces the bizarre plot against Kim Jong-nam and the stories of the two women (unwittingly?) implicated in his murder. The compelling film that results perfectly exemplifies the idea that truth is stranger than fiction – but will anyone believe the assassins’ version of the truth?

More Info:
For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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