Starring: Álvaro Longoria, Simon Cockerell, Kang Hyoin Gyu
Director: Álvaro Longoria
Running Time: 98 mins
The Propaganda Game is a Spanish documentary following a filmmaker as he investigates the truth behind the mystery of North Korea, and whether the stereotypes and conjecture of the Western media are fact or fiction.
There are many documentaries which promise a look deep inside North Korea, although many feel similar on account of the fact that all filmmakers’ visits to North Korea seem to end up on the same arranged itinerary.
So, The Propaganda Game features the same visits to the DMZ, the statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, discussions with everyday citizens of Pyongyang on the streets and everything that you expect to see from the government’s prescribed tours of the country.
However, while it isn’t able to break out of the mould set for it by the North Korean regime, Álvaro Longoria’s The Propaganda Game makes an excellent point that sets it apart from most others. Rather than simply trying to catch the North Koreans out, it’s a film that looks back on itself, challenging Western perceptions of North Korea, rather than whether what North Korea presents is the truth.
It’s an interesting approach that strikes up the particularly thought-provoking central message of the fact that much of what we in the West think about North Korea is too a part of Western propaganda. As Longoria mentions in the film, it’s very difficult to know what the truth is, and you’ll always be sceptical of one side or the other, but the fact of the matter is that there’s manipulation on both sides.
One fascinating way in which The Propaganda Game is able to make that point is by giving a lot of attention to the North Korean side of things. For most of the film, director Álvaro Longoria tours the country alongside Alejandro Cao de Benós, the only foreigner who works for the North Korean government.
Alejandro’s spirited defence of all things North Korean makes him a fascinating window into a mindset so rarely spelled out in the English language, allowing you to get a really clear window into just what the government thinks, because what he says throughout the film is far more liberal and open than what you’d normally expect from a North Korean government official.
Does that mean Alejandro is always telling the truth? Who knows, but the film contrasts his statements with those of outside observers and defectors, each bringing up points as to why one or the other is lying, exaggerating or simply playing their own propaganda game.
So, that’s what really sets The Propaganda Game apart from most North Korean documentaries. If you’re looking for a film that’s going to show you an unparalleled view deep into the hermit kingdom, then you’ll likely be disappointed, but with a unique message and a rare opportunity to get to know a member of the North Korean government, it’s a fascinating watch that makes a powerful point about the truth of propaganda. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6 overall.