Search - North Korea: A Day in the Life on DVD

North Korea: A Day in the Life
North Korea A Day in the Life
Director: Pieter Fleury
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
NR     2006     0hr 48min

In this rare look inside North Korea, director Pieter Fleury gained unprecedented access to a country generally cloaked in secrecy. Using "a day in the life" format, Fleury follows the daily routines of a typical North Kor...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: Pieter Fleury
Creators: Sander Snoep, Michiel Reichwein
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Studio: Facets
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/31/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2004
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 0hr 48min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, Korean
Subtitles: English, German, French, Dutch

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Movie Reviews

Wanna See A Horror Movie?
R. Epstein | USA | 11/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Although this film is described as following a 'typical family' through a typical day in their life, we know that the family in this film had to be hand picked and very likely trained for the filmmakers. Still, that in itself speaks volumes about how tightly controlled everything - and everyone - is. I won't go into details because the descriptions of life in this hellish country can't possibly compete with the images. The thing that makes it all so surreal is that what we see as a nightmare way of life is something that the North Koreans see as enviable. They're so out of touch with the rest of the world they really do believe they have a model society. Of course, this place isn't hellish in the way that Sudan or Afghanistan seems hellish. Everything in North Korea seems incredibly clean and orderly to the point of sterility, and the entire population seems to have been replaced by the Pod People from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Even the smallest children are incredibly quiet and subservient. I had to admit I was almost impressed by the sight of a Kindergarten classroom full of still, silent children lined up along the walls like glass dolls, until I remembered; they're children - they're supposed to be loud and unruly! I have to wonder how the teachers do it; is it Ritalin or... I don't think I really want to know. It's definitely spooky.

Spooky is the key word here. There's nothing that one can compare life here to other than maybe a Gulag run by Moonies, but what we are seeing is only what we're allowed to see. I can't imagine what the lives they don't want us to see must be like! The documentary has no narration, which is smart; we should let our senses guide us. But I actually found the extras on the DVD even more compelling than the film, particularly the discussion with the factory workers after the director came back and screened the film for them a year later (the film is a Dutch production). The translation by the interpreter at one point is hysterically wrong, which in itself is a sign of how self-censorship is automatic.

At the end of the day, the thing that is most disturbing in this film is that all the people we meet are kind and likeable and the kids are cute as buttons but ... they think of us Americans as monstrous dogs who deserve to be wiped off the face of the Earth (usually stated with about as much passion as ordering one's dinner off a menu). How much the people in that nation really believe that and how much of it is a polite regurgitation of propaganda for the cameras I don't know. I refuse to hate these people; I'm sure most of them are miserable. But I get chills down the back of my neck when I try to imagine even half the population believing even half the propaganda they're told. This is an uncomfortable but extremely fascinating documentary!
Another day in paradise.
lighten_up_already2 | Kirkland, WA USA | 10/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This movie shows a day in the life of a typical (or typical government approved for display) North Korean family. There is no narration, and really none seems needed. It's almost morbidly fascinating to watch just as raw footage edited together.

We see the family eating breakfast together, and then the mother, father and child go their separate ways. The mother takes her child to school singing a song of hatred toward America, and then reports for duty at what looks like a textile plant that manufactures outer coats for the military. Here we see the typical day of sewing the same stiches the same way every day while inspiring North Korean music plays over the PA system. Of course, the day is broken up into segments, just as is the day of the child in school and the husband in his English class.

So, it's really three "days" running in parallel, ending with a family gathering to hear an elderly war hero telling stories.

Highlights, for me anyway, include:

The staff meeting at the textile plant where the varous officers berate themselves for their errors.

The English class where the husband and his fellow students seem to be actually having fun. It surprised me that anyone takes English class in North Korea.

And, perhaps the most pathetic, the story of how the Glorious Leader (or whatever they call him) as a child refused to wear the new boots his mother made for him, prefering rather to suffer with wet sneakers like his comrades who didn't have new boots. Better to have wet feet with community than dry feet alone! Or to put it another way, misery loves company, which seems to be the founding and most important rule of life in North Korea.

Not only do we get to see the "story of the wet sneakers" told to a group of young school children, but we get to see the teacher's meeting where teacher go over and over this story and analyse it in detail as if it's the most important thing in the world to teach to a child.

What would have happened if the Glorious Leader has rather figured out a way to mass-manufacture warm boots for everyone and sell them at a low price? Well, then everyone would have warm boots and the Glorious Leader would have made a lot of money and then we'd be in...America.

So, I recommend everyone invest the 48 minutes or so to watch this and see what the workers' paradise North Korea looks like from the point of view of an "average" family. Better yet, watch it with wet sneakers on."
Humanizing the Axis of Evil
Bryan A. Pfleeger | Metairie, Louisiana United States | 10/27/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"There can be no question about it Pieter Fleury's North Korea: A Day in the Life is a propaganda piece. Never before had a western journalist been given so much access to a country that is traditionally cloaked in secrecy. But propaganda aside the film does give its viewers a look inside this closed world.

Following the daily activities of the Hong family we get a glimpse of what their life is like. Ms. Hong works in a textile factory and is constantly being observed by the government and her fellow workers as we witness power outages and productivity meetings in which the workers berate themselves and their fellow workers for lack of productivity and mistakes. The problems are generally blamed on the Americans who children are taught to hate from an early age. The song mother and child sing on the way to school is chilling.

The family's young daughter goes to school where she learns of the goodness of dictator Kim Jong Il (the General) through a parable of a pair of boots that he gave up as a child so he could wear wet sneakers like his comrades. The school day is completely regimented and the children come across as robots parroting the party line.

The father spends his day in class learning English and not much else is shown concerning him except that he sweeps the street in front of the statue of the General on his way home. An extra feature says that such work is noticed by the government.

Fleury says in an interview that the purpose of the film was to build a bridge between countries by humanizing the people and by showing them laugh. This is shown in the film but what comes across even more is the sterile environment of repression. These are normal people carrying on normal activities in an abnormal world.

See this film for what it is an unflinching look at a world many of us thankfully will never experience."
Interesting, but not for everyone.
Chris | Korea | 10/18/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)

"I have a mixed review of this DVD. For most people, I would recommend instead getting the National Geocgraphic video. I recently ordered both and watched the two almost back-to-back, and much of the video was the same. The National Geographic video, however, was narrated very well.

On the plus side for this video, however, this DVD had SOME new footage, and it was not narrated (that can be a plus for some people). For people who are avid "North Korea watchers" or researchers, it may very well be worth a look. Since those folks may not need a voiceover explaining what they're watching, the lack of narration may be a bonus. As D. Morris alluded, however, the average person will find this DVD boring.