The documentary Kimjongilia is a total experience of North Korea that layers music, animated sequences, interpretive dance, and, most strikingly, harrowing interviews with escapees of the totalitarian state, interwoven with hallucinatory propaganda footage. Filmmaker N.C. Heiken creates a consistent and incredibly unusual sensibility in her film of pain and propaganda. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans fill stadiums in praise of their leader with gymnastics, fireworks and synchronized marching formations – the footage may remind viewers of Leni Riefenstahl’s The Triumph of the Will. This footage is edited together with the voices and faces of victims behind the veneer who reveal a human loneliness and despair that is rarely communicated in life.
This film is a visceral reminder of the devastating injustices practiced around the world today. This is a country where a “crime” committed by one person leads to the life-long imprisonment of three generations of his or her family, and where children are forced to watch their family members publicly executed. In one particularly memorable testimonial, a man recounts how he escaped the prison camp at the expense of his friend’s life: the friend was electrocuted as he passed through the barbed wire fence, allowing him to escape unscathed.
Awarded the EST FILM 2010 from One World Brussels, in co-op with Human Rights Democracy Network, Kimjongilia examines the mass illusion possible under totalitarianism and the human rights abuses required to maintain that illusion.
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