The North Korean Propaganda Movie: 12 Must-Haves
Here is a list of twelve common characteristics of the North Korean propaganda movie.
They are based on 24 North Korean feature films (made between 1968 and 2012), which my instructors gave me to study. Kim Jong Il outlines them in detail in his film Manifesto, The Cinema and Directing.
Mean time, this is a good place to start.
1. Have a Revolutionary Cause
- In which the People defeat a capitalist, imperialist or class enemy. The Free World is full of these enemies. Take your pick.
2. Include a Nature Metaphor
- which speaks symbolically to your Cause.
3. Have at least one Kick-ass Socialist pep-talk
- about your Cause, the Dear Leader, or the glorious Revolution in general.
4. The Capitalist/Imperialist/Class Enemy is always defeated
- by the Hero/ine and the People who s/he inspires to take up the Cause.
5. People must burst into Song at least once
- the song can be dubbed, should be simple, and repeated several times.
6. Acting must be Melodramatic but Sincere
7. The Hero/ine is the noble face of the Cause
- s/he can either be a member of the Working Class; or an Artist, Party Official, Scientist, Athlete or Academic, who inspires the People to fight for the Cause.
8. Include an ‘Awakened’ Character
9. No Love Story – UNLESS it supports the Cause
- example of an appropriate love story: The Heroine refuses to move to the city with her boyfriend, and stays in her humble village to serve her People. The boyfriend selfishly pursues happiness in the city and ends up sad and destroyed.
Nb – Couples may not kiss or have sex. But they may dance, sing, and gaze lovingly together at pictures of The Dear Leader.
10. Use simple shots and editing
- use long takes, one cut per scene, crash zooms, minimal coverage and lots of action in wides. Do not use CGI, fancy tracks or cranes, or too many close ups.
11. Have politically symbolic Hand Props and Costumes
- they must be noble, simple and desirable for the working class hero/ine;
- vulgar, expensive but undesirable for the capitalist/imperialist/class enemy.
12. Know Your Message and the People will know it too!
Your film, from concept to lock-off, must be based on a simple ‘Songza’, or ‘seed’.
Below are five top North Korean movie seeds. They can be combined.
SEED 1 The People United will Never be Defeated.
SEED 2 The Person who sacrifices personal happiness for the good of her family, village, or country will be rewarded with glory – but only after hardship and pain. (If she dies, her reward will be to be remembered as a ‘Peoples’ Heroine’.)
SEED 3 He who leaves his village to seek fame and fortune in the bright lights of the city will always come to a sticky end.
SEED 4 Beware of hating your absent Father or Husband: he might be secretly sacrificing himself for the good of the nation.
SEED 5 The Person who covets possessions and status will be slowly destroyed in a nasty way, until the Heroine, or a noble older person, makes him see the light and join the Cause.