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Stories & Ideas

Tue 09 Feb 2021

So You've Seen Assassins ...

Factual media Film
Maria Lewis
Maria Lewis

Assistant Film Curator

The real-life story behind Ryan White’s documentary, 'Assassins', is almost too wild to be true … which makes it all the more fascinating.

On paper, the account of aspiring actresses Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong – who get duped into committing an assassination – sounds like the plot of a Bond movie. Yet it was the specifics of the story and the complicated web as outlined in Doug Bock Clark’s feature for GQ, 'The Untold Story of Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination', that first captured the attention of Ryan White, who would go on to make Assassins.

Still from Assassins - footage of Doan Thi Huong exiting KLIA after the assassination

Footage of Doan Thi Huong exiting Kuala Lumpur International Airport after the assassination

Who Was Kim Jong-nam?

Given the fantastical nature of the assassination itself, in the documentary we’re given only a brief look into who Kim Jong-nam was and how his presence could have impacted North Korea’s current regime. As outlined in Anna Fifield’s biography for The Washington Post, the 45-year old was “the closest thing North Korea had to a reformer”, which was also what made him a threat.

Assassins director Ryan White

Hailed as one of the most exciting upcoming documentarians, White made a splash in 2017 with the highly addictive The Keepers. The Netflix true crime series dug into the unsolved murder of a former nun – who was the highschool teacher of White’s aunt – and uncovered a web of corruption and deceit within the local Catholic church. It was nominated for an Emmy, along with his documentary feature The Case Against 8, which was a behind-the-scenes look at overturning the ban on gay marriage in California.

Watch Maria Lewis's interview with Ryan White

Related works

Screening in ACMI cinemas