Under the Sun Review: Documentary Goes Inside North Korea

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On January 17th at seven o’clock, I attended Under the Sun, a documentary directed by Vial Mansky. The documentary follows a young girl and her family. It opens with scenes in the girl’s home and a group exercising in an open area. Later, there are rows of people walking in unison and then multitudes bowing to large murals of North Korean leaders. The documentary then shows the young girl in school, and the teacher is discussing North Korean history.

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The teacher describes the Japanese as “aggressors.” She called another group “traitors” or “landowners.” Furthermore, she called Americans “scoundrels” and stated that Americans threatened North Korean’s with military drills. The teacher asked the students questions about the lessons and each child replied with the exact phrasing she used in class. It was memorization and recitation. There was an emphasis on learning to hate their enemies. The documentary switches scenes and shows the girl at home eating with her family.

The film shows a man directing the girl and her family on what to do and say as the camera continues to roll. The next scene is of the Children’s Union. The children go through a ceremony and then have a cloth knotted around their necks. It then moves to the girl’s father working and improving production by adding 8-millimeter and 20 millimeters. Then the mother is shown working in a milk factory. The mother and father were both coached on how to act in their work scenes. Then a veteran was then telling children war stories. The girl was falling asleep. There are scenes of dancers and the young girl learning to dance. There is a scene in a hospital. A group is around the young girl and telling her to get better for the concert. The concert is shown. The scene was guided, and the man told the dancers to be “joyful” and “patriotic” several times. Later, there is a scene that shows a large group of people bringing flowers and bowing to statues of the leaders of North Korea. The documentary ends with a woman asking the young girl a few questions. The young girl began to cry. To make the young girl stop crying, the woman asked the girl to think of something happy. The girl replied that she could not think of anything happy, good or funny. The woman asks her to recite a happy poem. The girl does recite a chant. She seemed confused about the concept of happiness. Throughout the documentary, the Day of the Sun on April 15th was mentioned.

I learned a few things, while watching this documentary. Firstly, I learned that harmony and unity are incredibly important to them. This can be seen in how they approach daily tasks. When exercising, it was in unison. When walking through the streets, they were in uniform rows. In school, they recited history in unison and completed other tasks in unison. Secondly, I learned how ingrained their belief that the Kim’s are the greatest is in their minds. They used positive adjectives and descriptions to describe their leaders such “loving father,” “sacrificial,” great,” “great brilliant commander,” “liberator,” “respected,” and “beloved leader.” Thirdly, I learned about the image that North Korea wants to project. They are attempting to project an image of happy, intelligent, well-behaved citizens, and a prosperous economy. Throughout the documentary, the man guided the actors to smile, appear joyful, and be happy. However, they never smiled, when the cameras were not rolling. Also, the young girl did not seem to understand what happiness was. They also are trying to prove they have an intelligent and cultured society. This can be seen in the school scenes, hospital scene, and the scene of the concert. They tried to show uniformity and productive citizens by filming them walking in lines and working in “workshops.” Lastly, they tried to show a growing economy by making ridiculous claims such as meeting 200% of production and stating they were making “great breakthroughs.” 

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Under the Sun Review: Documentary Goes Inside North Korea. (2022, Jun 24). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/under-the-sun-review-documentary-goes-inside-north-korea/