Propaganda movie that backfired

Under the Sun follows an 8-year-old North Korean girl as she becomes a conforming part of the system.
Under the Sun follows an 8-year-old North Korean girl as she becomes a conforming part of the system.

It is footage that confirms what the world already knows - that North Korea is a stage and all its people are actors.

A revealing new documentary which was intended as a propaganda tool has backfired spectacularly after footage was smuggled out of the secretive country.

Under the Sun, directed by Russian Vitaly Mansky, was supposed to be a profile of an 8-year-old girl as she prepared to join the country's children's union.

In the footage, the youngster, Ri Zin Mi, can also be seen preparing to join in festivities dedicated to late leader Kim Jong Il.

The girl is pictured at home, at school and even at her parents' workplaces.

Except the home isn't really hers and the workers' uniforms and smiles aren't that clean and sparkling.

The film was scrapped after ongoing differences between North Korean officials and Mansky, who resented constantly being told what to do and how to direct his subjects, CNN reported.

Producer Simone Baumann told the broadcaster that everything they filmed was completely faked.

"They would come to the scene, and would tell the people what they have to do, where they have to sit, how they have to sit, how they have to smile, they would tell them what they have to say."

In the footage the young girl from Pyongyang is directed what to say, where to stand and even how to sit. At one point her minders even tuck her into bed.

The filmmakers reveal just how much propaganda is behind what we see about North Korea and how they are told these are the happiest people on earth, yet no one outside is allowed to see this "earthly paradise".

Filmmakers spent a year with the girl, her classmates and her minders and see how the girl in front of their eyes becomes part of the system.

The out-takes - which were smuggled out of the country - show handlers and minders staging each scene before the cameras, even feeding them lines.

In one scene, factory workers are yelled at and asked to show more enthusiasm.

"One more time. Why is your applause so weak?" one minder can be heard telling the workers.

The young girl is also chastised for failing to learn her dance lessons as tears are wiped from her face.

Later, hundreds of people wearing red scarfs can be seen bowing before statues of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, lovingly laying flowers at their feet.

But footage also shows the flowers being taken away by minders, children freezing in a classroom and people pushing a bus along the road.

Footage and photos were tightly controlled, with scenes constantly deleted each night during filming.

However, CNN reveals how the filmmakers still had the footage, even after the project was canned, thanks to a camera which was always rolling and a recording system that used two memory cards instead of one.

The crew also kept a duplicate memory card of each shoot.

"The camerawoman is very brave. She put [the memory card] in her trousers when she went to the toilet," Baumann said.

"They gave one of them to the North Koreans, and the second one they took with them."

The filmmakers decided they already had the footage so wanted to show the world everything was fake and set up.

The film opens with the words: "The script of this film was assigned to us by the North Korean side.

"They also kindly provided us with a round-the-clock escort service, chose our filming locations and looked over all the footage we shot to make sure we did not make any mistakes in showing the life of a perfectly ordinary family in the best country in the world."

What: Under the Sun

When: Tonight, 8.30pm at Rialto Newmarket

- news.com.au

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