Aim High In Creation!

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North Korea (the DPRK for brevity’s sake) has long been a source of fascination to the wider political world, which has seemed to take a renewed interest in the isolated, enigmatic country.

Aim High In Creation!, the latest documentary from film director, Anna Broinowski (Forbidden Lies$), does a lot during its running time, but its clear strength is how it shows us this creative side of North Korea, and opens our eyes to an entirely new perspective.

The focus is on Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, of the tyranny and anti-West messages. Propaganda, in other words. But propaganda requires creatives. Who are the creatives in the North Korea? How do they work?

When summarised Aim High In Creation!,  is kind of a mess. Broinowski’s Sydney suburb is under threat from a mining giant who is planning to start mining coal seam gas (CSG) smack dab in the middle of the neighbourhood. Broinowski’s attempts at producing an anti-CSG documentary prove fruitless, so she reassess: if she can’t document, she’ll spread the word through propaganda.

And who are the best propaganda producers in the world? North Korea! Armed with a copy of Kim Jong Il’s (probably) seminal volume, The Cinema And Directing and the support of the high-level creatives of North Korea’s film industry, Broinowski and a team of Australian actors learn how to make a propaganda film worthy of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and stop CSG.

The film is not exactly balanced. There’s juggling between Anna’s adventures in North Korea and learning the ropes of its film industry. The CSG-focused elements of the documentary are effective and speak to Broinowski’s environmental point, perhaps more than the eventual film-within-a-film does, but they take the heat away from the most interesting parts of the documentary.

When the focus stays with Broinowski and her experiences in North Korea, the film sings. It’s filled with comedy and intriguing historical obscura. Though the CSG segments come off as preachy and political, the exploration of the North Korean film industry and its techniques is observational, insightful, and humanising.

Broinowski and her Australian cast don’t talk down to the North Korean attitudes, just accept them as alternatives. The regime is kept to the background as much as possible, which allows the audience to view the creatives as sweet, driven, talented people and not the poor deprived victims.

Broinowski claims that she had to try for two years to get access to North Korea, and the work she has put in pays off on screen. Despite the CSG elements of the film not meshing with the rest of the subject, if you value education and insight in your documentaries and have even a passing interest in the creative process, then Aim High In Creation! is a must-see.

Aim High In Creation! is exclusively screening at Nova from March 27.

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