A STATE OF MIND (Daniel Gordon). 94 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (February 24) at the Bloor Cinema. See Indie & Rep Cinema Listings for details. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
British director Daniel Gordon 's unique access to North Korean society makes this slice-of-life documentary compelling.
Shot over half a year in 2003, it tracks two young gymnasts as they prepare for the annual Mass Games, a huge synchronized love-in for the country's "father" or "General," Kim Jong-il.
The event, featuring more than 6,000 performers and 40 shows, is - as Gordon repeatedly suggests - a metaphor for communism. Everyone marches, twirls and jumps in unison. The individual is lost amidst the group in a display of devotion for their can-do-no-wrong dictator.
The footage of past and present games is terrific: part Triumph Of The Will, part gaudy Vegas act. An angry note of anti-U.S.-imperialism crops up numerous times during the games themselves (in a few telling images constructed from a human pixelboard) and in interviews with the gymnasts and their families.
Too bad Gordon doesn't get more from his two young subjects. One, Hyon Sun , seems a bit of a rebel; it would have been fascinating to see what happens to subversive behaviour both inside and outside the home.
But there are still lots of thoughtful nuggets here, from first-hand stories about the Korean War to quotes on more current issues like the war in Iraq and SARS. And love those propaganda cartoons.