Pyongyang Picture Show
Spectacle Theater (124 S. 3rd St., Brooklyn)
7:30 & 9:30pm
$5 for each half, $8 for both

An assortment of films about – and by – the government of North Korea.


7:30: NORTH KOREA: A DAY IN THE LIFE (2004, Fleury):
The film follows three generations of a typical family in Pyongyang over the course of one day. Granted unprecedented access, Dutch filmmaker Pieter Fleury was commissioned by the government to make a work of inspiring propaganda. But as grandiose wartime campaigns fade into a great, silent background, Pyongyang behaves less like a city, and more like an ant farm.

Anti-American anthems in kindergarten; analog call centers; evening English classes; war monuments; “productivity meetings”: these are the spaces where Fleury mounts his camera. Workers bemoan their failures in productivity and swear with religious piety to do better in the future. Devoid of interviews, narration or special effects, this unblinking film delivers a particularly sterile humanity, rich as can be with the sights and sounds of life as experienced under totalitarianism.

The movie will be shown with trailers, selections from state-directed North Korean documentaries, and footage from the 40th anniversary military parades.

PULGASARI (1985, Shin):
Shin Sang-ok was one of South Korea’s most viable studio directors in the 1970s, leaving behind a fecund list of slick melodramas and brassy thrillers. Having fallen out of favor with audiences in the 1980s, however, he departed for North Korea, totally unaware that he was about to spend eight long years as Kim Jonh Il’s personal cine-slave! Son of Eternal President Kim Il Sung, Kim was then little more than a gawky nerd with the world’s biggest train set. He tasked kidnapped filmmakers from Japan and South Korea with creating a new cinematic paradise in Pyongyang – or else.

With the help of hundreds of extras and props (leased from Toho Studios, home of Godzilla) and fed little more than grass, Shin produced PULGASARI. Starring his wife/co-prisoner Choi, it’s the magnum opus of his North Korean period: a 16th century saga of an iron-eating proletarian mega-lizard who helps depose a tyrant king.

PULGASARI is a heartfelt tribute to its executive producer and creative mastermind Kim; a gripping kaiju eiga in the worthy tradition of Gamera and Godzilla; a sweeping evocation of a depraved and ultimately childlike mentality. From the deepest bowels of Communist cine-mania to the Spectacle, we hope it terrifies and entertains as metaphor for Kim’s official portrait.