NEW YORK -- A bizarre tale of international intrigue is conveyed in Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim's documentary "Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story," which too often plays like a true-crime television special. But there's no denying the fascinating nature of the story, about a 13-year-old Japanese girl whose mysterious 1977 disappearance was ultimately credited to nothing less than a kidnapping by North Korean spies. Executive produced by Jane Campion, the film, which won the Audience Award for best documentary at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival, is playing at New York's Cinema Village.
Megumi Yokota was a normal Japanese teenager whose sudden vanishing seemed to make no apparent sense. That is until decades later, when her grief-stricken family learned that she, along with many others, had been snatched by Kim Jong Il's minions as part of a bizarre plan in which ordinary citizens were forced to educate North Korean agents in Japanese manners and mores. The revelation led to international negotiations, headed by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, that are still ongoing.
The dramatic story is related here in a somewhat diffuse and scattershot fashion that reduces some of its impact. But there is no denying its emotional resonance, particularly in its second half, when the family fruitlessly attempts to determine the young girl's fate. A story so bizarre that it would seem impossible to believe were it not true, Abduction has the feel of a Kafkaesque nightmare from which there ultimately is no awakening.