A tale of abduction, a compassionate couple of filmmakers, and the birth of an independent documentary film.
At their apartment in Washington D.C., Patty Kim and Chris Sheridan are packing for their weekend trip for filmmaking.
Kim was born in Korea, and Sheridan is a Canadian. They are a couple that gave up a stable lifestyle to pursue their dream of independent filmmaking.
"Just before we did this we are both working with National Geographic channel. I was a producer, Patty was a correspondent," said Chris.
A story about Japanese abductees forever changed their lives, said Patty. "We heard about what had happened in 2002 and something about it really intrigued us and it stay with us actually for few years"
"We heard the story and we were so moved by it that we kind of just left our jobs and decided to go and do this," Chris added.
In 2004, the North Korean regime acknowledged for the first time that North Korean spies abducted 13 Japanese civilians in the 1970s to train their agents to better impersonate Japanese.
Among them was Megumi Yokota a 13-year-old schoolgirl who seemed to have vanished into thin air one afternoon in 1977. The truth of her abduction was not confirmed until 1989. The story deeply touched Kim and Sheridan.
Chris explained what they did. "So we contacted the families, in particular we contacted the family of Megumi Yokota and immediately they said yes, they wanted to do something and we just kind of took it from there.
The journey started with a trip to Japan to meet Megumi's family in 2003.
"We took our camera and ourselves and our credit cards and flew to Japan and did what a lots of crazy western independent filmmakers would do, they just do it," said Patty.
Three trips to Japan between 2003 and 2005, more than one hundred tapes filmed, and the documentary entitled "Abduction The Megumi Yokota Story" is born.
The 85-minute film covers a span of almost three decades. By jumping back and forth in time, the film documents how families of the abductees learned about their loved ones' disappearance and campaigned for their release, often at the expense of their otherwise normal personal lives.
As a result, five abductees were returned in 2002. The remaining eight were announced dead, including Megumi Yokota.
"We want to tell a human story about their grief, their suffering, their loss. Those are things that anybody anywhere in the world can understand," Patty told us.
Abduction was featured in a number of film festivals, including the 2006 Independent Film Festival of Boston, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Maryland Film Festival. It also received an audience award in the best documentary category at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival. But it has not been an easy path.
"Most people think when you finished a film, when you finished editing and you showed it at your first film festival, that you are done, it's all over,” explained Chris. “But actually the whole story of making a film is just beginning. You are just starting. There is no money coming in, you are just continuously putting in money. In fact you put as much in when you are promoting it and marketing it as you did while you were making it."
Despite the difficulties, Patty says the experience was worth it. "It's so amazing; it's the people you meet along the way. It's the journey of making it that's so tremendous. It's not just the finished film; it's how you got there which is something that will stay with us forever."