“Escaping Eritrea” is a years-in-the-making investigation from FRONTLINE and Channel 4, offering a rare glimpse inside a country that has been under authoritarian rule for three decades.
Over the past two decades, more than a half a million Eritreans have fled their home country in eastern Africa, escaping what many have said is one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world. Filming and reporting in Eritrea is almost impossible. But for more than five years, producer and director Evan Williams has been gathering secretly shot footage from inside the country and interviewing people who’ve escaped.
Collected in the documentary, their stories depict a litany of horrors: brutal, extended interrogations and torture. People detained in overcrowded rooms for years without trial for attempting to avoid forced conscription. Someone dying after being locked in a sweltering-hot shipping container and begging for help. An underground cell known as “the oven” in one of the hottest places on Earth.
“The country is led on fear. Everybody is afraid for their safety,” says a doctor who tells the film team he regularly treated inmates who had been tortured in military-run prisons.
As the film notes, the Eritrean government would not speak to FRONTLINE about the investigation’s findings, other than to say the allegations were “astounding” and that they’d seen many fabricated stories before.
For more reporting in connection with this investigation, visit FRONTLINE’s website: https://to.pbs.org/3ehVTN9