Between Goose Step and Dolce Vita – A Road Trip Through a New North Korea
Germany | 2014 | documentary | 45 min
In the surveillance state of North Korea, foreign journalists are not welcome. But after eight months of waiting, an ARTE film team – the first in a long time – receives a permit for a two-week journey across the country. But chaperones from the Ministry of Culture never let the team out of their sight. Not even a stroll is permitted without an escort. The chaperones, too, must submit dozens of stamped papers to the local authorities for every single scene. The interviewees are pre-selected poster comrades, the scenes often staged and the most interesting situations off limits for the cameras.
But despite the ever-present surveillance, the ARTE team manages time and again to capture officially forbidden shots and gain insights into the everyday life of an isolated country: by night during a tour of an arcade and pizzeria for the nouveau riche of Pyongyang, or by day at the ice rink, a dolphin aquarium or a spirited picnic dance, in encounters with a border patrol colonel, an alleged monk and a beauty consultant. The documentary also shows images of merchants and smugglers at the Chinese border. The team even manages to get some telling statements on camera from the otherwise highly controlled chaperones.
In the end, the true threat to the communist regime shows itself: even a totalitarian state such as North Korea can’t insulate itself forever from the unstoppable flow of information in the digital age.