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The Lovers & the Despot (2016)

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The story of the South Korean actor, Choi Eun-hee, and her ex-husband and film director, Shin Sang-ok, who were individually kidnapped and reunited by dictator and film fan Kim Jong-il to force them to develop North Korea's film industry.


Ross Adam, Robert Cannan
5 nominations. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
Eun-hie Choi Eun-hie Choi ... Herself
Paul Courtenay Hyu Paul Courtenay Hyu ... Shin Sang-ok
Sang-ok Shin Sang-ok Shin ... Himself (voice)


In 1970s South Korea, actor Choi Eun-hee and her ex-husband, film director Shin Sang-ok, were divorced, estranged and both struggling with stalled careers. Unfortunately, both their lives seemed changed forever when they were individually kidnapped in 1978 by their biggest fan, Kim Jong-il, despot of North Korea. With persuasion and brute force, the movie obsessed Kim planned to use them to develop the Hermit Kingdom's film industry and get it out of its mindless propaganda mentality. Through the words of Choi, their family, associates and US intelligence personnel, you will follow the story of the bizarre slavery of this couple even as they rediscovered their love and secretly gathered evidence of the dictator's crimes. All the while, they struggled to play along with the world's most dangerous film geek as they desperately planned their escape. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They were kidnapped by their biggest fan.


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Official Sites:

Official site [Japan]




Korean | English | Japanese

Release Date:

23 September 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die Liebenden und der Diktator See more »

Filming Locations:

Seoul, South Korea


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$14,925, 25 September 2016, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$55,180, 30 October 2016
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Referenced in Filmbarátok Podcast: Episode #1.146 (2018) See more »


Benny's Zoot Suit
Written by Anders Greger Lewen [STIM]
Courtesy of FirstCom Music
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User Reviews

The director, his ex-wife actress and the dictator turned kidnapper who kidnaps them.
25 September 2016 | by samuelding85See all my reviews

The above tag line should pretty much sums up about the documentary feature, which tells the story most people might never heard of. The Lovers and the Despot explores the rather unusual love-hate relationship between a very unlikely trio: South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee and her ex-husband movie director Shin Sang-OK, where both were kidnap by their greatest fan, Kim Jong-il.

Written and directed by Ross Adam and Robert Cannon, the documentary tells the story behind one of the biggest kidnapping mystery that takes place in 1978. Featuring interviews with Choi herself, she personally explains to the audience about her career as an actress in South Korea movie industry, the romance and failed marriage between her and the late Shin, and a impossible reunion which takes place in the most unlikely place by the most unlikely person: Kim Jong-il's residency.

The documentary also covers the incident from the different perspective: the traumas faced by Choi and Shin's family member, especially their two adopted children; British police officers conducting the investigation on the disappearance of Choi and Shin in Hong Kong, where both were kidnapped in different locations; the South Korean CIA agent investigating the kidnap, which links to the study of North Korea movie industry and Kim's passion towards movies; Japanese film critic who assisted Shin to passed the message to their family back in South Korea; an former North Korea adviser who works for Kim and shares the unknown side of the late North Korea dictator. Together with some conversations from Kim himself, which was recorded by Choi and Shin secretly, audience gets an deeper insight on the man who was seen as a tyrant of the world.

Rather than having the usual conversations filled up the documentary, The Lovers and the Despot provides the audience with tonnes of rare footage, ranging from video clips from the movies made by Choi, Shin and Kim to photos and archival records. Not only does it keep the audience engaged, it also provides everyone an chance to watch something that is rare and unlikely to be seen on the mainstream media.

The Lovers and the Despot is one of the most important documentaries that document the evolution of North and South Korea film industry. Most importantly, we get to see a different side of the man in question itself.

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