Anna Broinowski: To North Korea and Back Again

Anna Broinowski is on a mission to prevent fracking with the most unconventional of methods: a propaganda film adhering to the codes of the late Kim Jong-il. Her documentary/meta activist film Aim High in Creation! joins her on a journey from her home in Australia into the secretive nation of North Korea to converse with the Martin Scorseses and Meryl Streeps of the nation’s movie industry. Complete with tae kwon do demonstrations, group singing lessons, and harsh acting tips, Broinowski's film relays messages and advice from the nation’s finest in the cinematic arts to the cast of her own crew to employ, along with some of her own advice.

Her film closed out the eclectic 13th New York Asian Film Festival last night, and filmmaker Anna Broinowski checked in at Film Society to explain the process of realizing her highly unique film, inspired by unknowingly coming across Kim Jong-il’s manifesto “The Cinema and Directing.” The book (she passed around an English-language version for the audience to see), describes guidelines by which films should be made—for example, that an actor portraying a villain should hate their character with passion. It served as inspiration to make her own film by those guidelines, as taught by those who exercise them in the country’s film industry.

Broinowski had much to tell regarding her two trips to North Korea for the doc. While the filmmakers, writers, and actors were and open with her and kind, she certainly had to watch what she said, for fear that she could be abruptly kicked out of the nation. Everywhere, even in her hotel room, Broinowski described a sense of being watched and developing some code words among her crewmembers. (Code names for their three lenses were “Lohan,” “Gaga,” and “Kardashian,” words North Koreans had never heard before.) In her openness, however, she found that some of the filmmakers even took a paternal stance toward her as they offered advice and encouragement. There are no women filmmakers in North Korea.

With footage from her North Korea trips, her crew’s preparation for the film, and the complete activist film itself, there were a number of ways by which she could approach the structure of this film. What Broinowski completed is a back-and-forth correspondence documenting her learning and exercising new ideas toward filmmaking, ultimately resulting in a highly unconventional and fun documentary.

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