March 25, 2013

Crossing the Line: American Defects

The American Dream doesn't always happen in America. Sometimes, it happens in North Korea. In one of the more bizarre examples of truth being stranger than fiction, Crossing the Line tells the real story of PFC James Dresnok, a soldier who defected from the United States military to North Korea in the 1960s. He wasn't the only one to do so either. One of four soldiers who ditched Uncle Sam for Kim Il Sung, Dresnok truly lived out a weird rags-to-riches fantasy, a man who grewing up an orphan then ended up a movie star, albeit one typecast as "white-faced devil" for the duration of his big screen career.

As for his co-stars and fellow defectors -- Pvt. Larry Allen Abshier, Specialist Jerry Wayne Parrish, and Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins -- they too became tools/trumpets of the country's propaganda machine (which included a magazine entitled Fortune's Favorites that featured the foursome having a good old time across the border). Whether they all came to revere their adopted homeland as much as Dresnok is anyone's guess. Parrish and Abshier died before Crossing the Line was released and Jenkins' condemnation of the fascist government may have been a pre-condition to being granted citizenship by Japan where he fled to join his Japanese wife, who claims herself to have been abducted to become his bride.

What is clear is that Dresnok has brought an immigrant's traditional values with him, wishing nothing better than to see his children get a better education than he did and taking pride in having carved out a decent living for himself. There's something sweet about that, even if the way it's done seem utterly preposterous. But would you expect anything less than pure craziness from a documentary narrated by Hollywood kook Christian Slater. Crossing the Line is actually the third in a series of North Korean documentaries which include The Game of Their Lives (about the World Cup team that went to the quarterfinals in 1966) and A State of Mind (about two girl gymnasts). Based on Crossing the Line, I'd see either.

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