Private Project

The Untold Story Of Otto Warmbier: What Happened In North Korea?

On January 2, 2016, the US student Otto Warmbier from Cincinnati, Ohio, was arrested in North Korea, where he had travelled with a tourist group. What soon followed was a show trial with his theatrical confession, that he had tried to steal a Propaganda poster from a staff's hotel floor on behalf of the US government. He was sentenced to 15 years in a Labor camp. More that a year later the US doctor Mike Flueckiger and his pilot took off from a small airfield near Atlanta to get Otto rescued from Pyoengyang. The silent mission on a flight route that didn't even exist both succeeded and failed, since Flueckiger only found Otto in a hospital close to death due to severe brain injuries. Filmmaker Klaus Scherer of Germany's number one public network ARD, an award winning former news correspondent in Asia and the US goes after details and contradictions of the Warmbier case, ist torture charges and its political drifts in the powerfield between the rivals and self declared friends Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. There is no better way to tell the result than Flueckiger does at the end of the film: "Too many lies", he said. And did so in both directions.

  • Klaus Scherer
    Grimme Award, German TV Award, Axel Springer Award, Filmmaker Of The Year, Impact Docs Award, Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award, Houston Remy Awards and others
  • Klaus Scherer
    see above
  • Heather Dolce
  • Daniel Frevel
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Die Akte Otto Warmbier: Was geschah wirklich in Nordkorea?
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Politics, International Affairs, Human Interests
  • Runtime:
    43 minutes 30 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 30, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    75,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Japan, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Impact Docs Awards
    San Diego
    United States
    Award of Excellence Special Mention
Distribution Information
  • ARD/NDR German TV
    Country: Germany
    Rights: All Rights, Internet, Free TV
Director Biography - Klaus Scherer

Klaus Scherer, born in 1961, is a senior correspondent and special reporter with Germany's number one public broadcaster ARD, based at NDR Hamburg, Germany. From 2007 to 2012 he was ARD's news correspondent in Washington DC, from 1999-2004 East Asia correspondent and bureauchief in Tokyo, covering also North Korea, which he travelled four times.

Scherer has produced high profile current affairs, history and travel documentaries like “Targeted by Hackers”, “Kamikaze: Death Order for Japan’s Youth”, “Stunned by the Arctic”, "Nagasaki: Why Was There a Second Bomb?" or "The War of Nerves With North Korea: Where is Kim Jong Un Heading? “ He has been awarded with the two most prestigious German “Adolf-Grimme-Preis” and “Deutsche Fernsehpreis”. He also wrote several books like the SPIEGEL-Bestsellers “America’s Great- and Crazyness: Inside Views of a Superpower” and "Nagasaki".

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Director Statement

Telling "The Untold Story of Otto Warmbier" was a challenge. How could I attract an audience to a rescue mission of which we already know the end? How to describe what happened in North Korea when I wasn't there either? That was what I thought before I had the chance to start to talk to witnesses involved in the case. Before I found out about contradictions not only on the North Korean side, but also on the US side, which I had not expected. So we kept on asking questions. And more than once our soundman took off his headphones after a 45 minutes interview just to tell us: "Wow! How unbelievable is that?" I rarely had that before.