With its puzzling missing person’s story and ominous aesthetic composed of interviews, dramatic recreations, and ghostly still photographs, Patty Kim and Chris Sheridan’s Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story initially seems like an expanded episode of Unsolved Mysteries. That alone wouldn’t be a bad thing, as NBC’s creepy 1980s serial was always meatier than its exploitative premise suggested. Yet Kim and Sheridan’s doc eventually proves itself to be a more intricate and chilling work of real-crime nonfiction than its TV forerunner, recounting its decades-spanning case with equal measures of wrenching suspense, outrage, and empathy. In November 1977, 13-year-old Japanese girl Megumi Yokota went missing on her way home from school, a disappearance that devastated her devoted parents and remained largely unanswered until, 20 years later, the astonishing truth came to light: Megumi, as well as at least 12 others (and likely many more), had been kidnapped by North Korean spies, who used their foreign captives as tools to learn how to pass themselves off as authentic Japanese. What ensued was a vigorous battle by the victims’ families to motivate Prime Minister Koizumi to retrieve their loved ones, an endeavor rife with implications both global (regarding North Korea’s famine crisis and negotiations over their nuclear weapons program) and intensely personal. Sheridan and Kim wring a good deal of tension from their headline-making tale as reporters and government investigators attempt to uncover North Korea’s dastardly plot, though their film’s lasting impact comes from its compassionate portrait of parental devotion. A kind duo driven to discover the truth about their missing child through organized protest and political pressure, Megumi’s mom Sakie and dad Shigeru are repeatedly offered, and then denied, any substantial amount of closure, a frustration heartbreakingly conveyed via Sakie’s dream for Megumi—in which the girl would return home to Japan and feel “liberated” and “free” from confinement—that stands as a surrogate wish for herself. Abduction pushes its poignant buttons while casting Megumi’s kidnapping as a heinous crime, yet to its credit, it consistently does so with a deftly understated, devastating touch, as when the recorded sound of Megumi delivering a choral solo gives fleeting voice to a girl whose silence (not unlike that of Kim Jong Il) hangs heavy over the still-unresolved proceedings.
- Safari Media
- 85 min
- Chris Sheridan, Patty Kim
- Chris Sheridan, Patty Kim
- Sakie Yokota, Shigeru Yokota
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: