Frontline estimates one out of every
one hundred North Koreans is a political prisoner and famines have been
widespread, but if big clunky monuments are your thing, the DPRK is the place
to be. Inconceivably, tourist do come to gawk at the enormous eye-sores
dedicated to the Kim dynasty. Marie Voignier takes the tours, but she excises
the commentary of her guides and minders (it is all just propaganda anyway)
concentrating on the telling details found in the margins of the dysfunctional
dystopia in International Tourism (clip here), which screens
during the Museum of the Moving Image’s 2015 First Look.
approach is rather odd, but it can’t be called unfiltered. She certainly has an
eye for telling juxtapositions, capturing the oppressive drabness of Pyongyang
housing complexes, as well as the ostentatious kitsch of the omnipresent
memorials. Clearly, this is not a healthy living environment. In fact,
everything about North Korean architecture appears designed to make the
individual feel insignificant and intimidated.
her credit, Voignier also recognizes a dramatic moment when one happens, as
when a tour guide in the Museum of American War Atrocities (or whatever it is) loses
her cool when challenged by one of the visitors. Dissenting views are not something
they are accustomed to dealing with over there. Apparently when in doubt, the
guides fall back on regurgitating the dimensions and weights of the various
granite monstrosities, so maybe tourists are better off with the outrageous
lies and disinformation, which should at least keep them awake.
also follows a tour through a North Korean film studio, where a conspicuously stilted
and didactic propaganda film is in the works. At this point, it is worth noting
Voignier conveys more truth in a mere forty-eight minutes with only background
ambient noise for a soundtrack than Anna Broinowski’s offensively clueless
brown-nosing in Aim High in Creation.
Sadly, we might just be getting a sneak peak of what Hollywood’s future
tent-poles will look like as studios and exhibitors continue to cower at Kim
On some level, the passivity of Voignier’s
method is somewhat problematic. Still, she peaks into the gap between the false
façade the DPRK state apparatus presents to the world and the crummy reality
its serfs endure. Recommended on balance for those who understand how to watch
with critical eyes, International Tourism
screens with the remarkably insightful I
for Iran this Saturday (1/17), as part of this year’s First Look at MoMI.
Labels: Documentary, First Look '15, North Korea