Winner of the Audience Award for docs at Slamdance 2006, “Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story” looks, sounds and fascinates like an exceptional episode of a true-crime TV series. Helmers Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim skillfully use interviews, reportage and archival material — and an absolute minimum of dramatic re-enactments — to provide narrative momentum for their stranger-than-fiction scenario. Well-crafted pic could score in global tube markets.
Early scenes detail what appears to be a routine missing persons case: In 1977, 13-year-old Megumi Yokota disappears without a trace on her way home from school in Niigata, Japan. But the seemingly ordinary tragedy turns out to be part of an extraordinary conspiracy. As decades pass, journalists and government investigators discover Megumi and several other unfortunates were abducted by North Korean spies, who used their victims as role models while training agents to convincingly pose as Japanese citizens. Megumi’s parents emerge as sympathetic figures as they join other families in pressuring Japanese officials to demand the return of their long-missing loved ones. But even as public outrage mounts, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi must balance the grief of individuals against the demands of realpolitik.