Under the Sun

Wide-eyed Zin-mi, a young North Korean girl poised to join the Children’s Union, anchors Under the Sun, her expressive face belying the strain under which we find her. As director Vitaly Mansky follows her in the lead up to the “Day of the Shining Star” (Kim Jong-II’s birthday), he quietly takes a would-be propaganda film—designed by the North Korean government—back. Following extensive negotiations, Mansky was granted permission to film there, with ample caveats. But, in what is as great a feat of journalism as one of filmmaking, he was able to secretly copy the footage that his keepers believed they had wiped from his memory cards. But even without this stealth, the incompatibility of reality and the North Korean-issued script are exceedingly tangible, as characters rattle off the health benefits of kimchi, the beauty of their great country, and the surplus of goods produced by happy factory workers, while a dance class sees fat tears run down Zin-mi’s face.

Dir. Vitaly Mansky, 2016, DCP, 110 min.