I’m working up a set of criteria to review North Korean movies with. So far I have the following:
The Kim Co-efficient: How strong a presence is the cult of Kim (and/or religion of Juche).
Socialist Plenty: Movies from communist countries go to absurd lengths to make the material situation seem much better than it is…. and it still is often kind of pathetic and occasionally (in the case of North Korea) seems to betray a fundamental ignorance of what technology is or how it works.
Orwellian Nightmare: Not so much about state surveillance but about how thoroughly citizens are expected to monitor each other and how placidly this is supposed to be accepted.
No Unimportant Jobs: A theme I’m detecting is building a movie around a profession that might not seem very cinematic. Even family members don’t support them until…. their job becomes incredibly important for a moment and everybody realizes there are no small jobs, just small workers.
I’m Sorry: Man, is there a lot of apologizing in these movies. Apologizing for mistaken beliefs is the national sport. Reactions to the apologies are… mixed and puzzling.
Lost in Translation: Obviously subtitles are going to omit a lot and simplify. But often I have the feeling that I’m missing something very significant.
I’m still working on this list and might start reviewing soon (you’ve been warned).