Filmmaker Álvaro Longoria heads in to Northern Korea to look at the life of its people and how propaganda operates in the country and on its population.
North Korea is a notoriously secretive country, shielding itself from the view of the outside world and also blocking its population’s view of the outside so has Longoria managed to crack this tough egg and produce a documentary that really uncovers the true reality of life under one of the few Communist regimes left? The answer unfortunately is no. With North Korea being so secretive it does not allow Longoria and his film crew to wander around by themselves. They are constantly escorted from one place to another on their rigorous and controlled itinerary with the North Koreans showing at every turn that their people are happy and peaceful. This does in part give you an idea of the control operating in the country but it also means Longoria is unable to break through to the truth on the underside.
The film is made up of, on the one hand, the documentary footage of Longoria’s visit to North Korea. On the other, is a selection of talking head interviews from experts about what is apparently really happening in North Korea. The North Korean side tell you that the regime creates a society of complete togetherness with the state providing free food, shelter and education for the masses, while the other side tells you what is behind the magician’s curtain; a country filled with starving and oppressed people, brainwashed by a totalitarian regime. North Korea is a highly militarised country, especially considering its size, and while to those on the outside this is a scary prospect, most notably their growing nuclear capabilities, looking from within you can see how it is North Korea attempting to protect itself. The country has been invaded several times and its Communist structure is one of very few left. The country of course will try and protect itself from the much larger enemies outside of its own borders. Experts, including some of those who escaped from North Korea, tell of how their people are oppressed and viciously controlled while those inside North Korea obviously deny this. As Longoria is unable to show us any proof, it makes it difficult to come down on either side. Occasionally things do seem a little off, such as the visit to a Catholic Church service, and the devotion and celebration of the country’s leaders does seem strange to Western eyes, but this doesn’t prove serious misdoings. As Longoria says near the end of the movie, we are all subject to propaganda and it is up to us to see through it and find the truth underneath the spin.
Longoria has made an interesting documentary about North Korea and to an extent, the propaganda at work on the country. However, he has been unable to break free from the strict controls that are imposed upon him and has not been able to show what the truth of life is like there. The Propaganda Game is an interesting documentary for those who don’t have a lot of knowledge of the country but it lacks the depth and revelations that would make it a must watch on the subject.
THE PROPAGANDA GAME / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ÁLVARO LONGORIA / SCREENPLAY: ÁLVARO LONGORIA / RELEASE DATE: 26TH FEBRUARY