A scene from the documentary “Assassins” (The Coop)
Ryan White’s documentary “Assassins” tells the story of Siti Aisyah from Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam -- the two women who killed Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam -- and what happened to them afterward.
The documentary features surveillance footage of the murder of Kim Jong-nam and shows how the two women were arrested. It also shows how they were duped into smearing the lethal chemical agent VX on Kim Jong-nam’s face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Footage of their murder trials, where they both maintained that they had known nothing about the assassination plot and thought they were part of a prank show, is also included in the film.
Director White explained that like most Americans, he had not known much about the case before making the film.
“I think for almost everybody around the world, the assassination was such a huge, huge headline from the very beginning,” White said during a press conference held via videoconference at Lotte Cinema in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul.
“For Americans specifically, if you look back at this, the assassination happened in February of 2017 and that was Donald Trump’s first full month in office. He had just been inaugurated here.”
He explained that Trump coverage dominated the news cycle at the time, while the news about Kim Jong-un’s half brother quickly disappeared from the headlines.
“Assassins” director Ryan White speaks during a press conference held via videoconference at Lotte Cinema in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul. (The Coop)
After receiving a call from a journalist in Indonesia, he became interested in making a movie about the two women.
“In late 2017, a journalist approached me and he was in Indonesia and Malaysia investigating the story,” White said. He called me and said, ‘I think there’s a lot more to this story than what anybody knows.’ That is when he told me that prank show defense. That wasn’t public knowledge at the time and it seemed unbelievable.”
During the conference, he explained how he became convinced the two women were innocent.
“Once we saw all that (airport) footage, and it took months and months to piece it all together, then we started to realize everything that these women have told us and told the police and their lawyers were corroborated by what’s on this footage,” he said.
“So we were not able to see any lie that they told.”
He also talked about the fears he had when he was filming the documentary.
“I 100 percent felt like my cybersecurity was being threatened, and we had to be very careful as American filmmakers,” White said. He said he consulted with the FBI and the agency told him how to protect himself from cyberattacks.
He said he also felt his physical safety was in danger.
“Whether that was real or paranoia, I don’t know. But there were so many people telling us that we shouldn’t be making the film, especially North Koreans in Malaysia,” White said.
He added that his family had been worried as well.
“My mom was the happiest when this film reached the end,” he added.
“Assassins” is now playing in local theaters.
By Song Seung-hyun (email@example.com