Friday, 2 March 2018

BITE-SIZED REVIEW: Propaganda (dir. Dear Leader, 2012)

A look at western media, and how it perpetuates systems of oppression around the world, keeping its citizens compliant and occupied with pointless distractions while corporations corrode democratic institutions in order to retain their economic power. Thanks North Korea!

I had never heard of this movie before. When it was released in 2012, the story was that it had been smuggled out of North Korea. In reality, Propaganda is a New Zealand documentary, made over a decade by Slavko Martinov.

The conceit is ingenious, as it forces the viewer to constantly re-examine the way western views of the world are moulded, it also draws attention to the biases of its 'makers'. The facts about the history of Western imperialism, historical revisionism and America's military-industrial complex are brutally real, and as an indictment of western hypocrisy about notions of good/evil and 'freedom', the film is nigh-perfect.

It's largely made up of stock footage, and the film is composed of various ideas that developed through montage and narration from an anonymous North Korean psychologist.

The movie does start to feel like a lecture at points, as certain themes and issues are hit over the head again and again and again, but the movie is enlivened by a rich vein of dark comedy. The film's takedowns of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tyra Banks' talk show and The Bachelor are hilarious (and true).

The film is not an easy sit. If you are uncomfortable thinking too hard about American history and its impact on the world, this is not for you. Some of the footage, particularly of America's various wars, is horrifying. But it is necessary to the film's effect.

What really elevates the film is the finale, in which all this history is re-contextualised as a reason for the perpetuation of North Korea as the last bastion of freedom. With this final gambit, the film becomes a 95 minute-long treatise on the importance of critical thinking. Everyone uses propaganda to justify who they are, and what they stand for (or stand against) - you just have to maintain an ability to see it for what it is, no matter who the messenger is.

Propaganda is available for free on Youtube.

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