Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


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Yesterday was Dear Pyongyang, last of my doom and gloom documentaries for a while. I've got tickets to one of the showings of Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, and I might try to take in The Trials of Darryl Hunt, but the weekday films are a lot harder for me to juggle and still meet my other commitments.

Dear Pyongyang was a very personal documentary. Focusing entirely on the film maker's family (her pro-communist, activist parents living in Japan and her three "returned" brothers who were repatriated to North Korea as teens) the film unfolds slowly and painfully. Yang Yonghi does not flinch from showing her father's weaknesses, picking at any crack, prying for any hint of regret, expressing her conflict and disagreement with him in voice over while needling him on camera. Through her we see North Korea, the desolate and barren-seeming countryside, the port city with decades-old signs welcoming ferries with words like "Blitzkrieg" and "Destroy All Enemies". We see the city of Pyongyang itself, the deserted streets, the buildings in poor repair, the stalled construction projects, all mixed with the iconography of the "glorious leader" and parades and facade. When it is revealed that the "returned" sons and their families survive only because of monetary allowances and care packages sent by their family in Japan, we struggle to make sense of the parents' continued vows of allegiance to the cause and support for North Korea in the face of it all. Surely they can't believe that, you think to yourself, surely they must regret, they must know they've made the wrong choice... Lip service must be the price they pay for access to their families? What excuse, what rationalization can a father looking at the life he condemned his sons to possibly make? The last fifteen minutes or so of the film are particularly rough, unflinching and verging on cruel as Yang Yonghi presses hard. Nothing is resolved. It was a difficult film, with so much left unsaid, barely hinted at. Nonetheless, I was glad to have seen it. I'd rate it better than Gitmo, less than King Leopold's Ghost.

Chris went to work for the rest of the day while I drove off to pick Kate up from her dad's. She'd been at camp all last week and at her dad's for the long weekend, so she hadn't been home for a week. She returned to me with a hole in her shoe, so we shopped unsuccessfully for new shows and other things, and got home in the evening. Kate, dying to see X-Men III, begged Chris to go out with us and he agreed, so we trotted off to yet another theater. In general, it was a good enough way to pass the time. I agree with the criticisms I've read that the story was too spread out, never focusing enough on the parade of characters that are (re)/introduced. I found some of the character choices baffling but enjoyed others. However, when you have a 10 year old girl complaining, "I like the comic books better. Wolverine shouldn't CRY! They make him too sappy," I think you've got a serious problem with your franchise.


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