Monday, August 16, 2010

Netflix Review: A State of Mind

I've recently become addicted to Netflix. I am very partial to the streaming feature. I find that the lack of commitment required when streaming a movie makes me a lot more adventurous than I would be if I were renting or getting a DVD shipped to me. In fact, we've turned off quite a few movies including Revolution OS and Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts.

One movie that Jeff and I would not turn off was A State of Mind. It is a documentary filmed in isolated North Korea. It was one of the only Western film crews to be allowed access north of the 39th parallel since the end of the Korean War.

The movie follows two middle school aged gymnasts preparing for the astonishingly lavish Mass Games, the communist party's celebration of the collective self. Following the girls through their astonishing daily lives would have been entertaining enough. However, the film crew happened to have access to the girls and their families during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. So, they unexpectedly caught some very candid reactions of the North Koreans to the aggressive acts of the United States.

The video quality is poor, probably because of the access to technology that the film makers had and the effects of streaming the converted movie. The film does have some stunning visual moments where the tragic reality of everyday life for the North Koreans is juxtaposed with the audio overlay of someone lauding their way of life. These girls really believe that they live in the best place on earth.

One interesting element of the movie is that one can assume the North Korean government made sure to select two girls who came from families and backgrounds that they wanted to show off in the West. They even went so far as to send the girls on a special "field trip" pilgrimage to a site that is practically holy in North Korea. I assume school girls do not ordinarily get free train trips for their educations. It was very telling.

Ultimately, this documentary exposes just a little bit about a country that George W. Bush feared enough to label as a part of the Axis of Evil. You can see that the people there are human and fragile, just like us. Most of all, their lives have been molded by the information they have been fed through their educations. You cannot blame them for hating the West, when our government has done enough wrong for their revolutionary history classes to paint the US as their axis of evil. I felt a sense of pity that they are not allowed to learn all sides of a story the way we may in the US.

I encourage you to watch A State of Mind in order to help open yours further to the realities of the world in which we live.

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