A man enthusiastically smiling while the sweat of terror streams down his face; a class of small children, singing with religious fervour for their murderous dictator; a fake church, filled with fake Christians, designed to trick a documentary crew into believing this is a free and tolerant country.
These are just some of the confronting sights in The Propaganda Game, a documentary by Alvaro Longoria, which elucidates some of the hitherto unseen horrors that are run of the mill in North Korea. The film works best when the incredible, often terrifying footage of the hermit Kingdom is allowed to speak for itself. Also incredible is the testimony of North Korea’s sole foreign employee, a true believer who chose of his own volition to work for the repressive regime. Less valuable are the scenes in which the director, editorialising, hijacks his own film. Longoria, whose work with Oliver Stone, and involvement with films like Che might give you a clue as to his political leanings, tries to dress up his personal vendettas as even-handedness. The result is bizarre. Why, for example, set aside time in your documentary, which is ostensibly about North Koreans, to sledge Fox News? Some moral atrocities are greater than others. Equating the enslavement of 24 million people with American 24 hour cable news is vulgar to the point of incoherence.