North Korean Film Madness (Documentary | Part 1/3)

Uploaded by vice on Oct 5, 2012


We just got back from North Korea, and all I
can say is holy fuck.
Before I went North Korea, I didn't know that much about
it, except for that was the last real deal cult of
personality socialist utopian state left on earth.

I mean, I knew Kim Jong Il was the permed dude with the big
glasses who drank more Hennessy than
anybody else on earth.
But when we did more research, we found out that, oh, Kim
Jong Il is a huge film buff.
He has over 20,000 titles.
He built seven personal, private theaters, and he loves
slasher films, Godzilla movies, and Elizabeth Taylor.
In fact, he loves film so much that he built a huge studio
right in the middle of the nation's capital, Pyongyang.
So Kim Jong Il, freakiest guy in the world.
North Korea, freakiest country in the world.
Kidnapping people to make the freakiest films in the world.
This all equals freakiest film story ever.

Kim Jong Il came to power in 1993 after the
death of his father.
His father, Kim Il Song was the first ruler, slash
Generalissimo of North Korea.
Kim Jong Il made a film about his dad, which helped sort of
smooth and solidify his move into power to become the next
God, slash father, slash ultimate ruler, slash Playboy
of North Korea.

Kim Jong Il is known to his people as the great general.
But he's also great at everything.
He's a perfect architect, a perfect clothing designer.
He's the best that animal husbandry.
He's also the best at making cheese.
He's perfect at all arts, especially film.
In fact, he wrote a book about it.
So Kim Jong Il builds this huge film studio in the middle
of Pyongyang, but he doesn't have
anyone to make the movies.
So he goes out and kidnaps them.

So as most people are trying to get out of North Korea, we
were trying to get in, which is no easy task.
And it took us about a year and a half of continual
nagging and calling before we got a tentative OK to come to
Northern China in Shenyang and apply in person at the North
Korean consulate for a visa to get into North Korea.
They pick you up.
They put you in a car.
They take your passport.
They take your money.
And they drop you off in a North Korean bar.
You're in this North Korean bar, and they're singing these
propaganda songs right away.
And if wasn't for my buddy Mark from the LA Times-- thank
you Mark-- who twigged me to the fact that everybody in the
bar is secret police, and if you don't show the proper
enthusiasm for the propaganda songs, you're not
going to get in.
So I drank blueberry wine, got pissed, got up, started
singing the songs as best as I could.
And because of that I got my visa the next day, and I got
into North Korea.

So you arrive in Pyongyang.
And your guards come and get you right away.
And they put you in a car, and they take you into the city.

The first thing you notice on the drive in is that there's
no traffic.
There's no cars.
People walk everywhere.
Then you drive up to your hotel, which is
this 45-story hotel.
But there's only one line of lights
through the whole hotel.
And you realize, oh, there's only one floor being used.
You go into the lobby, and it's totally empty.
All there is is a sort of tragic sea turtle floating by
himself in this tank.

We've come to a 1950s communist time capsule.
Industrial wasteland.
Flooding, dirt, dirt.

I can't go anywhere.
The hotel's on an island, and you can't leave without your
guard, your guide, and secret police.
The only way I knew he was secret police is that he was
never on camera.
But when they do take you, they take you where
they want you to go.
It's a government-approved itinerary.
And the first place they take you is to the DMZ.
The DMZ, or the demilitarized zone--
which is actually kind of a funny name because it's the
most militarized zone in the world--
is the last vestige of the Cold War.
This is the last place on earth where East meets West.
This is the historical spot where the Korean People's Army
made the Americans kneel down like dogs, and they should
remember that.
I'll tell them.

So this kind of tour goes on for about three days.
They take you to this monument.
They take you to that monument.
You don't know where it is.
You don't know what it is.
But you have to do it.

You have to go to the House of the People, the Library of the
People, the Soccer Player of the People, the Juche Ideals
of the People.
The People of this, the People of that.
Stultifyingly boring monument after boring monument.

And the whole time we're saying, hey, can we go to the
film studios?
Please can we go see the film studios?
And they're just like, nothing.
They won't show anything.
They won't say anything.
But they did take us to one place that really blew our
minds, and that was Arirang, the mass gymnastics.

You sit here in the biggest stadium in the world with
150,000 kids out there, just getting ready to do a show.
We're sitting on a dais generally reserved for the
great General Kim Jong Il, and we're sitting here--
--all these people are waiting to perform for us.
It's the most insane feeling you've ever had in your life.

The Arirang games are like a live version of a Hollywood
action film.
There's 120,000 kids that have trained for two years to do
all these card changing and back flips.
But nobody's there.
The whole show is put on for a handful of people.
Because they're so paranoid that they won't let anybody in
to actually watch it.

And on one side, you're kind of blown away.
But on the other side you're saying, why?

You have no gas.
You have no electricity.
Your people are starving.
Yet all your money is going to the best and brightest you
have in the country to put on a spectacle for 10 people.
I realized, this is what North Korea is all about.
It's about putting on a show.

At this point, we're five days in, we've asked them 50 times
to see the film studios.
We're running out of time.
And I start bad tripping.
We're not going to go see the film studios.
And if we don't, this whole trip has been a bust.