The Propaganda Game, film review: Some startling revelations in this documentary about North Korea

(15) Alvaro Longoria, 96 mins

Geoffrey Macnab
Friday 26 February 2016 00:21 GMT
The Propaganda Game is a startling, comical and often horrifying documentary
The Propaganda Game is a startling, comical and often horrifying documentary

The Spanish director Alvaro Longoria's documentary about North Korea is startling, comical and often horrifying but very even-handed. Longoria went to shoot in Pyongyang. He was fully aware that he was being shown only what the North Koreans wanted him to see – the parks, shiny new offices, universities and museums. The film-maker is polite and respectful to his hosts – and they are helpful toward him, albeit reticent. Even so, his interviewees make some startling revelations about everything from haircuts permitted in the country to their diet. When he speaks to an old war hero, the man, bedecked with medals, boasts about how well the government treats its veterans. They're even sometimes given… vegetables.

Longoria intercuts footage from North Korea with interviews and newsreels featuring western politicians, journalists and human rights activists. He deals with the scandal surrounding the Seth Rogen comedy The Interview, and he looks at the workings of the North Korean propaganda machines and the often superficial treatment of the country by the western media.

He also assesses the geo-political reasons why everybody from China to Russia, South Korea and the US, wants to maintain the status quo. One of his interviewees is a North Korea-based Spanish communist, a die-hard apologist for the regime who blithely refuses to accept any evidence of the starvation and human rights abuses going on around him.

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