A Slamdance champ, Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story earned raves from Western critics for sticking to the busy aesthetic of a Dateline true-crime exposé. Anxiously paced to dubious effect, the documentary details the November 1997 kidnapping of a 13-year-old Japanese girl. Taking their cues from Megumi Yokota’s mother, who says she feels like she lives in a movie, the filmmakers questionably evoke the little girl’s abduction as a prolonged trailer—a barrage of information cloaked in Unsolved Mysteries tics that include crime scene re-creations made to look authentic (and failing miserably) with the dust and scratches of a filmstrip. The documentary never finds the appropriate rhythm to match the severity of its subject matter, but a chilling political nightmare does emerge when it’s revealed that Megumi was just one of countless people abducted by spies and taken across the Sea of Japan to instruct North Koreans on how to be Japanese. Even after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi gets Kim Jong Il’s government to admit to the kidnappings, the fate of Megumi and others remains unknown. Despite its structure, Abduction sheds light on the disturbing politics North Korea deploys to simultaneously intimidate the world and guard itself from attack.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 2, 2007