Why AIM HIGH IN CREATION?
Crazy, right? I made a film about North Korean propaganda cinema. The crazy part is, it contained a short North Korean-style drama, made by an Aussie cast, using the rules of Kim Jong Il’s film manifesto, The Cinema and Directing. We made it to stop, of all things, Coal Seam Gas.
You don’t normally see Coal Seam Gas and Kim Jong Il in the same sentence, let alone the same film. But bear with me. One of Kim Jong Il’s first rules is that every great propaganda movie must not only be “of a high artistic standard”: it must “advance socialism” and help smash the “decadent and corrupt” capitalist system.
Well, the reason I made AIM HIGH! in the first place was I was feeling a tad angry about capitalism. Particularly the part that involves massive global corporations, polluting pristine environments in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
The best example of this, for me, is Coal Seam Gas. This industry sells itself as ‘greener than coal’, based on a powerful illusion: CSG mines are small. They can be concealed by pretty trees, but the damage they do is enormous. If you want to know more, watch AIM HIGH! – or go to the Fracking blog post
City residents rally against Coal Seam Gas in Sydney Park.
Anyway, in 2010, the residents of St Peters and Erskineville, two suburbs in the middle of Sydney, discovered the government had quietly given a CSG company called DART Energy permission to drill under Sydney Park. My daughter played in Sydney Park. She chased the dogs from its swan-filled ponds. It was only short walk from her school. Like everyone else in the neighbourhood, I was shocked. I figured the best way to help, along with going to protests, would be to make a film about it.
But what kind of film?
Josh Fox’s excellent doc, Gasland had inspired many to fight CSG, but it had not stopped thousands of wells being built in Queensland, and thousands more threatening New South Wales. Meanwhile in America, entire states were having their farmland and waterways taken over by gas fields. People were lighting their taps on fire. Kids were getting headaches, nose bleeds, and rashes, all allegedly caused by CSG – and the politicians were doing nothing to stop it.
I knew another ‘straight’ documentary wouldn’t cut it. I had to reach the mainstream public – who believed that Coal Seam Gas was safe.
Then I remembered a strange little birthday present I’d been given a few years back. A friend had bought it in Pyongyang, when she was producing a doc on North Korean human rights violations. It was a discreet brown book, with tissue thin pages and a simple gold title: “The Cinema and Directing” – by Kim Jong Il.
I picked it up. And started to read:
In a capitalist society, the director is shackled by the government policy of commercialising the cinema, so that he is a mere worker who obeys the filmmaking industrialists whether he likes it or not. On the other hand, in the socialist society the director is an independent artist who is responsible to the people. He is Creative Commander of everything – from the film itself to the ideological life of those who take part in it.
Cue a magnificent light bulb going off above my head, and a glorious choir, singing revolutionary songs somewhere in the rosy, mist-filled background. I know that’s over-the-top, but so are those rare moments when you have an original idea.
Before I’d finished the first page of Kim Jong Il’s book, I knew what I had to do. I had to use his rules to make a propaganda film so powerful, it would stop the gas mine in Sydney Park.
I was already a convert to dramatized docs after making Forbidden Lie$ and I loved Lars Von Trier’s hybrid feature, The Five Obstructions. I figured that a film about a bunch of western actors who make a North Korean propaganda short to stop a gas mine was do-able: even if it was crazy.
Besides, I really liked the passion of Kim Jong Il’s second rule, which is that if you want to make a socialist propaganda film, you must “Aim High in Creation”.
And so, AIM HIGH IN CREATION! was born.
Chapter Two of Kim Jong Il’s Manifesto, ‘The Cinema and Directing’.
AIM HIGH! is a film about ideology, the environment, and the manipulative power of Cinema. If it belongs to a genre, I guess it’s a genre of one:
The Revolutionary Comedy.