Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
This documentary has all the usual ingredients for a North Korea exposé: huge empty squares, propaganda posters and massed performers. But this one achieves much more than all the others, ironically by following the rules.
Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky travels to Pyongyang to make a film about a schoolgirl, Zin-mi, about to join the Korean Children’s Union and become a fully vested citizen. He has submitted a script to the authorities. Zin-mi’s activities at home and school are all approved, but as the shoot begins the propaganda officials stay close. So, leaving his camera running between takes, Mansky documents their constant fussing and interfering. This footage and the repeated takes they demand become the nub of the movie, revealing in excruciating detail how much control is being exerted over everything and everyone we see.
“Watching the finished film is a uniquely disturbing experience. It’s like someone’s opened a window into an Orwellian universe where lies are truth, freedom is slavery and dictatorship is the will of the people. At least when it ends we can return to our world; Zin-mi and her family are trapped there forever.” — Norman Wilner, Now