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.