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.
 
IMDB:
7.8
Metacritic:
63
Rotten Tomatoes:
89%
Year:
2004
93 min
Website
64 Views


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."

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