I’m endlessly interested in North Korea. The world’s sole remaining Stalinist state (I don’t think Turkmenistan counts anymore, though anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), it’s honestly like Nineteen Eighty-four breathed into life. (Fun fact: Orwell published Nineteen Eighty-four within one year of the DPRK’s founding. Synergy!) It’s also such an anachronism, a little Cold War time capsule perfectly preserved.
I know that North Korea is responsible for grievous human rights violations and deplorable treatment of its citizens. But… is there just a teeny, tiny part of you that hopes it keeps existing, for purely anthropological purposes? No? Oh. Yeah. Me neither; I was just saying… you know? World War Two was a brutal conflict killing over 73 million people, but you still get buffs who eat up every book, every movie, every article about it. I’m kinda the same with North Korea. The very notion that such a place exists at all is fascinating.
Anyway, good thing for North Korea fans! MUBI just released three documentaries about the Hermit Kingdom all in a row. We have The Red Chapel, a film about Danish comedians trying to subvert the garish propaganda of the government. Then we have two from British documentarian Daniel Gordon: A State of Mind, about two girls’ preparation for the Mass Games, and Crossing the Line, about American soldiers’ defection to North Korea. (I know, wtf?)
So this will work much the same way as the last movie marathon. This is the ‘master essay,’ as it were, with links to the individual essays:
First of all, my stunning review of The Red Chapel.
Also, my thrilling review of A State of Mind.
And finally, my erotic review of Crossing the Line.
This is only a mini-marathon, seeing as how there are only three films to discuss. Consequently, I’m not doling the reviews out one at a time; if you’re reading this, I’ve already posted the lot! YOU’RE SO LUCKY!
And if you, like me, just can’t get enough of the DPRK, I cannot recommend Bradley K Martin’s Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader enough. It is the most comprehensive overview of the nation you can get.
To watch these films, of course, you’ll need a subscription to MUBI, and to live in the United States. (Although, as of this writing, The Red Chapel is streaming on MUBI Canada.)