May 28, 2017

Aim High in Creation: Australia's Take on North Korean Agit-Prop

Say what you want about Anna Broinowski as a director or a writer or an actress. As a conceptual artist, she's hit a home run with the defiantly quirky Aim High in Creation, a documentary about her creation of a short, political film modeled after the propaganda movies of North Korea. And Broinowski isn't simply sending up the didactic features of the Hermit Kingdom either. She's actually enlisted members of that country's film industry to advise and guide her in her creative process. (How the Hell did she make that happen?!) The final product — viewed at the end of her doc — is better than you might expect, too. Is it as polished as her source material? No, but to their credit, the North Koreans don't disrespect the work either but categorize it as "so Anna" which, in fact, it really is. The reasons it's not slicker ultimately have to do with Broinowski's reluctance to fully invest in their process as is. You could argue that she would've been unwise to do so, too, as it seems beyond unlikely that a North Korean-style epic would play to an Australian audience in the exact same way.

Broinowski, recognizing this, focuses more on the disconnects that happen when trying to bring their method to her homeland: apolitical actors wary of looking foolish; a script that finds its own simplicity ridiculous; a budget that's even more severely constrained. But really Broinowski's just cause — fighting multinationals poisoning the land with only profit as a concern — takes a back seat to another message: That our prejudices about North Korea can only be partially substantiated by reality and that artists around the world share a commonality that defies imposed boundaries. A land with no reality TV, no internet, no product advertisement, no money-grubbing companies influencing all the government's decisions... That doesn't sound so bad, does it? Maybe we have something to learn from North Korea, despite all its well-chronicled shortcomings and problems. Power to the people!

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