Arguably the most significant contribution to our understanding of the reclusive and inconspicuous communist state yet, JT Singh and flow-motion videographer Rob Whitworth collaborate with North Korea’s leading tourism agency Koryo Tours to produce a stunning representation of life amidst its abstruse capital.
When not being roundhoused by Obama with economic sanctions or allowing Stevie Wonder to pluck his eyebrows, Kim Jong-un likes might permit certain western filmographers to capture the essence of what it is truly like to live in the capital city of the most taciturn civilisation in the modern world.
During the course of the film, it is startling to grasp how much freedom and access the filmmakers were allocated, albeit under the close supervision of two members of North Korea’s tourist board:
We were not allowed to shoot any construction sites, undeveloped locations or military personnel. Other than that we were given relatively free reign.
Watching the film, it does look like a normal, functioning city, albeit with ghastly architecture reminiscent of Soviet-style grey blocks. Aside from the huge 20ft portrait of their supreme leader here and there, it could be a city in Eastern Europe. Green spaces, attempts at modern-style glass infused buildings and even skateparks are all present here, a far cry from western media’s propagandistic claims of destitution, famine and poverty.
One of the film makers argues:
The average visitor to Pyongyang is likely to be surprised by the scenes they encounter and are especially surprised about how clean and orderly the city actually is. Indeed, people living in Pyongyang and other major cities enjoy a higher quality of life than those in other parts of the county.
It’s still hugely possible (pretty much guaranteed) the allegations of famine, death camps and political repression are a gruesome reality for the majority of the population after all, in rural areas of the country restricted to these filmmakers. But nevertheless, it offers a fascinating insight into Pyongyang.