Linda Jablonská: Welcome to North Korea

After many journalistic documentary investigations into politics and suppression in North Korea, it is refreshing to watch this work from the hands of Czech director Linda Jablonska, who joined a group on its totally controlled tour to Pyongyang. As no communication was possible to local people – followed 24h by official guides as the Czech group was – the film gets its quality from showing the reactions of the travellers to what they see. And dont see. At the same time as you as a viewer gets the tourist tour as well.

There are many comic situations – should we bow in front of the monument of Kim-il-Sung? – and disagreements within the Czech delegation. One is more and more against everything and feel increasingly uneasy by being there, another likes a children’s show and disagrees that it is (only) propaganda, and a third one makes many fine remarks comparing this country with the Czekoslovakia he grew up in: We had some sweets to give to the children here but they did not take them, they just stared. The same happened when I was a kid and was offered sweets from French tourists. We were told not to… we grew up in this.

I don’t want to make problems, you hear the director say from behind the camera, and indeed she does not want to play heroic journalist, who tries to get behind the facade. Instead, she has made a good documentary about people like us in the West – who travels to discover the world – in this case with huge limitations. They leave the country in question, North Korea, and go to China… which the Czech tourists call a free country!

Czech Republic, 2009, 79 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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