Fascinating documentary story of Private James Dresnok, who deserted the US army in 1962 to build a life in communist North Korea, where he raised a family and became a propaganda film star.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
In 1962, Private James Dresnok, a 19-year-old American border guard in the notorious Korean demilitarized zone, deserted the US army and crossed over into communist North Korea. One of only four American soldiers to defect there during the height of the Cold War, Dresnok was initially arrested as a spy, before the North Korean government found they could use his unusual circumstances in their propaganda campaign against the United States. Dresnok became a film star, playing the evil American again and again. He also got married, had three children and lives in North Korea to this day. Director Daniel Gordon (making his third film about North Korea with producer – and Festival guest – Nicholas Bonner) skilfully counterpoints Dresnok’s own testimony against fascinating interviews with former friends and colleagues from his American life, as well as stark archival footage of the People’s Republic and interviews with the Korean soldiers who initially arrested him. Branded ‘Comrade Joe’ by Stateside media of the time, Dresnok tells his story here for the first time.