Propaganda

North Korea Movies

This ain’t exactly breaking news, but North Korea is making headlines again for, amongst other things, threatening to re-ignite its ongoing conflict with South Korea as well as send missiles into a strange selection of American cities, including the home of Reject HQ. Just as the unpredictable, inscrutable, hermetically sealed-off dictatorship is characteristically vague in its threats, North Korea’s culture is something of an enigma writ large: very little of it is witnessed by persons outside the country, and even less culture moves into the country itself. In the age of the Internet, we’ve found out about North Korean life through journalists’ state-sanctioned tours, stories from those who were once held captive in the nation, or simply peripheral experiences like North Korea’s one-of-a-kind one-star airline. North Korean culture appears only in a piecemeal fashion to the outside eye – we receive esoteric details here and there, but little of it adds up to a cohesive picture of what North Korean life looks like from the inside. National cinemas have typically provided a shorthand for understanding a foreign culture. With what little we’ve been able to see of North Korean cinema, the nation’s cinematic history is as strange yet one-note as one might expect. But it also represents something of a former era. Whereas ideology permeates implicitly and heterogeneously within much of 21st century global cinema, North Korean cinema maintains a particularly 20th century sensibility in its decisive use of filmmaking for the benefit of the state apparatus.

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Why Watch? Because this is what the past thought of its own future. This silent short is a piece of propaganda filmmaking from 1916 made in response to a bombing that took place during a Preparedness Day Parade (the country was on the cusp of joining WWI). The opening is an animated message that claims either the giant angel of prosperity will rain money down on the city or a dark, dark cloud of terror will engulf everyone. Then it points the finger of blame for the latter option. This is followed by images of the parade, and footage that was taken directly after the bombing (which killed 10 and injured 40 in the worst terrorist attack in San Francisco history). What Will It Cost? Just 6 minutes of your time. Does it get better any better than that? Check out San Francisco’s Future for yourself:

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Chances are that you stumbled upon a video recently where Disney paraded their animated films from 1 to 50 in celebration of the release of Tangled. You might have marveled at the pristine quality of Snow White or clutched at your chest in childlike wonderment at the Lion King’s roar. You might have even had a flood of childhood memories wash over you like the sun on a cold day. There’s something to be applauded in creating their 50th animated feature film, but Disney is celebrating a little bit late because there’s one movie that’s missing from that video roster.

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In WWII, Dr. Seuss worked for the War Department creating educational cartoons for troops. They just happened to include some fantastic racial stereotypes, bare-breasted ladies, and dirty double entendre.

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Is Iron Man 2 an escapist, crowd-pleasing piece of big-budget popcorn entertainment, or a two-hour ad for neo-capitalism? Can it be both?

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Bill and Jimmy are in trouble. They’ve fallen in with a foursome of pot dealers, and their lives are about to be thrown into a whirlwind of loose morals, febrile piano playing, and rape. The dangers of the plant on screen! Tell your children!

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