‘Seoul Train’ documentary nearing completion | VailDaily.com

‘Seoul Train’ documentary nearing completion

Cliff Thompson
Preston Utley/Vail Daily Filmmakers Jim Butterworth and Lisa Sleeth from Minturn have created a documentary on North Korean refugees fleeing to China.

MINTURN – Minturn documentary filmmakers Lisa Sleeth and Jim Butterworth’s “Seoul Train” – about human rights abuses in North Korea and China – is beginning to be seen by the right sets of eyes.The film is set to premiere in Hollywood in November.The couple, with the assistance of the Vail Symposium, recently screened their nearly completed film in Vail and it attracted more than 200 people and generated plenty of buzz. The film chronicles the plight of North Koreans who attempt to escape into China using an underground railroad of activist volunteers to smuggle them there.

After the Vail screening, they unexpectedly received plenty of donations.”We weren’t looking for donations. People donated money,” Butterworth said. “Lisa and I were overwhelmed. This isn’t about raising money. It’s amazing the way the community has rallied behind this effort.”They didn’t specify how much, but did say it will help fund the remaining $50,000 in production and technical costs for the film. Butterworth and Sleeth have already spent $140,000 of their own money on the film. Any money the film makes, over and above their costs will go to the nonprofit corporation they’ve formed to help North Korean refugees. But it was one e-mail they received that is beginning to make them believe they actually can achieve their 14-month-long goal of helping North Koreans.

In the e-mail, they learned their 55-minute documentary film is being considered for a screening before the Council on Foreign Relations, a heavyweight advisory group to the U.S. State Department.That has them excited, as has an interview they recently conducted with the film industry’s Realscreen Magazine. That interview came about because the parents of one of the publication’s executives lives in Edwards and happened to view the film at the Vail screening. “We really haven’t done any publicity,” Butterworth said. “But people are starting to hear about it.”The film now is in the finishing stages where sound and color engineers will balance those elements. That’s expected to be completed early next month, he said.One of the places they’re considering showing the finished film is at the Pusan, South Korea International Film Festival the second week of October. But that might be politically incorrect, Butterworth said.

“The South Korean government may not want us to show the film there. They’re trying to keep the public at large uninformed about the situation in North Korea and that there’s even a refugee problem,” he said.If that doesn’t work, they want to show it at the Chicago International Film Festival. After that they want to see if it will be admitted to festivals in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. They’re even setting their sights on having “Seoul Train” appear at the Sundance Film Festival in January.Once the filmmakers have their Web site built and running, it will provide information to people who want to help.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado

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