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Magnolia Snags Ryan White’s Doc ‘Assassins’ About Kim Jong-nam Murder

Sundance 2020: Kim was the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un

Magnolia has acquired the worldwide rights to “Assassins” out of Sundance, the latest documentary from director Ryan White that follows the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un’s half-brother.

The film follows closely the trial of two young women who perpetrated the assassination with a deadly chemical but said in their defense that they believed they were participating in a comedy prank show.

Magnolia will release the true-crime documentary later this year.

In 2017, Kim Jong-nam — the half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un — was assassinated in the bustling departures hall of Malaysia’s international airport. The spectacularly brazen murder happened in broad daylight, filmed entirely by security cameras. Footage showed two young women approaching Jong-nam from behind, covering his eyes with their hands, and pressing VX — the most lethal nerve gas on earth — into his eyes. He stumbled away and was dead within an hour.

But if the murder was extreme, the story that came next was even more bizarre: The two women who killed Jong-nam claimed they had simply been hired to pull a video prank and had no idea what they were really doing. The Malaysian government scoffed, arrested and imprisoned the women and put them on trial for murder, facing execution. But was their outlandish story actually the truth? And would anyone believe them? “Assassins” travels from the sanctums of Pyongyang to the rice fields of Indonesia and Vietnam to the courtrooms of Kuala Lumpur to tell an extraordinary tale of manipulation and subterfuge in the age of social media.

“Some stories can’t be made up, and in ‘Assassins,’ Ryan White does a terrific job unpacking one of the most mind-boggling stories in recent memory,” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said in a statement. “We’re very excited to bring it to American audiences and beyond.”

“This story is so bizarre and sensational, but we were captivated by the central question: who are the two mystery women that assassinated Kim Jong-nam?” Ryan White said in a statement. “It takes a brave distributor to take on this subject matter, so we’re thrilled that Magnolia will be our partner on our third film together.”

“Assassins” was produced by Jessica Hargrave and White. Executive producers are Doug Bock Clark, Dan Cogan, and Geralyn White Dreyfous.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia EVP Dori Begley and Magnolia SVP of acquisitions John Von Thaden with Submarine Entertainment and WME on behalf of the filmmakers.