North Korea Would Make George Orwell Proud

I saw a documentary Saturday evening, called Under The Sun, that was both distrurbing and laughable. It’s almost two films combined: one is a total fabrication and the other closer to the truth.

Despite continuous interference by government handlers, director Vitaly Mansky still manages to document life in Pyongyang. He was supposed to tell the story of Zin-Mi, an 8-year-old girl and her parents. But by cleverly letting his camera run in between the staged scenes of life in North Korea, he reveals how the government handlers scripted and coached the family, and everyone else in the film. For example, the government propaganda machine decided they didn’t like the jobs held by the parents of the little girl. Instead, they manufacture different jobs at factories. Then they staged scenes at the factories where “coworkers” praise the work of the parents, even though they don’t really know them. We eventually figure out that the family’s apartment isn’t their real home.

The really sad part is the faces of the people filmed. The citizens in Pyongyang appear drab and lifeless. They never smile except when instructed to by the handlers.  Some of the scenes reminded me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The city consists of cold grey concrete buildings broken up by public spaces with portraits of the leadership cult.

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