A State of Mind

Synopsis: A British documentary that follows two young North Korean girls as they prepare for the Mass Games, the world's largest choreographed gymnastics performance.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Daniel Gordon
Production: Kino International
  1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
93 min

North Korea is the least visited

North Korea is the least known

North Korea is the least understood...

...country inthe world.

It is home to the Mass Games...

...the largest choreographed spectacle

in the world.

I long for the day

when I perform for the General...

...so I train through the pain.

To strengthen my resolve to do well

in gymnastics and school...

...I study with a picture of the Great Leader

and the General.

In 2003, a British documentary

crew followed

two North Korean schoolgirls, as they

prepared for that year's Mass Games.

Mass Games are North Korea's

socialist realism extravaganza

and a perfect example of the

state's ideology

the subordination of the individual's desires

to the needs of the collective.

Throughout the year, North Korea was

the focus of negative world attention

as its nuclear policy was condemned worldwide.

At a time when North Korea's distrust of

the outside world was at its highest,

the film crew was granted unparalleled

co-operation from the authorities.

There were guides and interpreters

present at all times,

but they neither interfered nor sought to

censor the material.

For the first time ever, North Korea

the secret state, would reveal

itself to outsiders

A State of Mind

Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.

A harsh winter is almost at an end

but it is February and

minus eight degrees.

As there is negligible

indoor heating here

the children of Pyongyang

remain on winter holiday

Kim II Sung Stadium

But for an elite group of gymnasts

there is no time for play

only for training.

Hands up if you can do it like her

It's a club where my classmates and I...

...perform group gymnastics together

with our hearts in unison.

The Mass Games club trains daily

for a minimum of two hours.

Pak Hyon Sun

The temperature can be as low as

20 degrees centigrade...

...whilst we train at the athletic

academy for young people.

You look prettier as you smile.

Pak Hyon Sun is 13 years old. She

has been a member of the Mass Games

club for four years.

When I train, I sometimes fall

over and hurt my knees.

So it hurts in a lot of places...

...but I long for the day when I

perform for the General...

...so I train through the pain.

It's tough

Scenes of collective training can be

found all over Pyongyang.

Each Mass Games unit is striving to

attain the state's desire

to cultivate the group mentality.

Since the formation of The Democratic

People's Republic of Korea in 1948

the State has imposed an all encompassing

belief structure on the people.

The placement of Mass Games within

this structure has never been more significant.

For the participants it enforces

submission to the group

For the audience it is an inspiration to

behold the values of teamwork

and the glory of the

State and the Leader.

In the West North Korea is condemned

as a repressive and totalitarian state.

Yet here, the high level of discipline

is imposed by the perceived threat from

the outside world.

They see it as their struggle to build a

strong country under its own principles.

Everything centres around the worship

of the Great Leader, Kim II Sung

who died in 1994, and his son and

successor Kim Jong Il, the General.

Before appearing in front of the General...

...my chest and heart were trembling.

My whole body was trembling.

I was so frightened that I couldn't move

any part of my body...

...but when I thought that I would go out...

...in front of the General and do my moves...

...it seemed as if the General

was looking at me...

...and saying "Don't cry, do your best."

My heart felt happy and I broke into a smile.

For these girls, the Mass Games are an

obsession that governs their life.

Their driving force is to be good enough to

be selected for the final performance, which

will be viewed by the General.

Hyon Sun has experienced Mass Games

in the presence of the General on

three occasions.

I have never been happier than the 3 times...

...I performed in the presence of the General.

When I appeared before the General

for the third and final time...

...I kept thinking, I really mustn't

make a mistake.

At first, Mass Games was exhausting...

...so I went out everyday and played instead,

Then I'd return home in the evening...

...and tell my mother that I'd been to gym.

I got found out by my mother and teacher.

So I got a good telling off.

After that I started going to gym practice.

Yes, my friends also wanted to come out

with us and try being filmed.

Hello. This is my grandfather.

This is my Grandmother.

This is my Mother.

Today is the day when our father

the General, was born.

So our family my mother, father and

grandfather has come out...

...to the Taedong River, where we're

enjoying ourselves.

Hyon Sun's father came with us too...

...but something came up

at work so he had to go...

...but he'll join us again soon.

In Korea the family

is the strongest unit

yet nothing transcends the passion

and devotion shown for the leaders.

To celebrate February 16th, the General's

birthday, everyone in North Korea is granted

a day's holiday.

The mood around Pyongyang is relaxed.

For Hyon Sun, this is a day of rest.

Today is the happiest of

all days and festival...

...because it's the day when our General...

...to whom the whole world looks up, was born.

So the citizens of Pyongyang... the youngsters,

will go dancing tonight.

Won't you join in?

Hyon Sun's group is training for the next

Mass Games, which are due to be held in July

to commemorate the 50th anniversary of

the end of the Korean War, a war known in

the West as the Forgotten War

in North Korea as the Victorious

Fatherland Liberation War.

Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Grandfather, is that a fighter plane from

the U.S. Army of aggressors?

Did it drop bombs too?

No, but it dropped all kinds of insects...

...containing the virus of various plagues

before being shot down.

An estimated four million people

many of them civilians

were killed in the three year war and

to this day Korea has remained divided.

The near flattening of the north by

American bombers

has left a deep mark on North

Korean psyche.

When I was young...

...I didn't know if the U.S.

Imperialists were bad or good,

But through our war in the 1950's...

...I saw the brutal bombing of our country...

...and the atrocities suffered by our people.

I saw things being done that

no human could do.

I became more enraged

about U.S. Imperialism...

...and felt that we had to rid this land

of U.S. Imperialism completely.

Hatred of the US is immortalized

in Mass Games

and is ingrained in everyday life.

The U.S. are making life bad in our country...

...they are manoeuvring to suppress the sound

of happy laughter here.

As war looms in Iraq, America openly

talks of a war on two fronts

implying Iraq and North Korea.

Pyongyang is just over 100 miles from the

37,000 US troops based in South Korea.

Hyon Sun's daily life is disrupted by

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "A State of Mind" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 24 Jul 2024. <https://www.scripts.com/script/a_state_of_mind_2028>.

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