A State of Mind
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The subject matter is relatively straightforward. North Korea operates under a collectivist regime where individuality is sacrificed to the needs of the state. The documentary examines a public manifestation of that overarching impetus in the Mass Games and counterposes the lives of two individuals aspiring to participate in the presentation before the current leader of the country. As a backdrop to that journey the documentary looks at the ordinary lives that these two people lead in their journey to the event.
What emerges is a picture of a society where the inhabitants see the outside world from a perspective which is radically different from that of secular westerners. The concept which continualy comes to mind is gestalt which means that the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. What is fascinating to me is that there is no coming together of either view. The documentary presents a picture which is sumptuous in it's colours and organisational feats but which illustrates to our eyes the paucity of the collectivist ethos and the damage which is done to the individuals in that society. At the same time ina gestalt switch the viewer who holds such views sees the same film as one which illustrates the achievement of something for the common good despite the considerable adversity.Read more ›
Though not a "political" documentary, it is clear that North Korea is "a state of mind-control". Nearly every public park, monument, mountain, etc is named after Kim Il Sung (dead founder of the country), or his son, the leader they call "The General", Kim Jong Il. Every person only had great things to say about him and only wanted to please him. Everyone is part of a group - there is never any individualism - you will not see a long-haired boy, and everyone wears the same clothes, etc. Anti-American/West viewpoints are hammered into the population daily through teachers at school, posters, museum exhibits (purporting the US dropped plague-virus bombs in the Korean War), etc. The Army marches with the Nazi goose-step. The state-provided radio can be turned down but not off, and only plays state propaganda. One family was fortunate enough to have a TV, given to them by the state for the girl's participation in the previous games. It, too, only broadcasts propaganda, and was on for only 5 hours a day. Just as well, because there are routine nightly power failures. You must have a permit to travel out of your city. There is no internet access or email. All this is not a good sign that the isolated nation is as enlightened as it would like us to think.
The girls are quite charming and the families seem fairly happy in their regimented life.
The DVD extras include a minimal interview with the director, a CNN segment about the movie, and a photo gallery. The optional English subtitles translate the spoken Korean words, but do not close-caption the English narration.
A bit pricey, but thumbs up.
This is not the first movie on North Korea for filmmakers Daniel Gordon and Nick Bonner. Gordon, a former sports producer for Sky Sports and BBC, shot his first feature length project on the North Korean soccer team to the 1966 World Cup in England. That film, 2002's "The Game of Their Lives," went on to garner great critical acclaim and is one of the few films - if perhaps the only - to be shown near simultaneously in both North and South Korea.
Using the connections they had made in the production of "The Game of Their Lives," as well as the goodwill they had fostered with the North Korean government in making a nonpolitical film, Gordon and Bonner set out shortly thereafter to start work on "A State of Mind," for which they were given unlimited access, a rare privilege in North Korea.
The filmmakers spent the better part of 2003 in North Korea shooting two aspiring prepubescent female gymnasts and their families in Pyongyang.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you are looking for a documentary that glorifies north korea (purposely not capitalized) then you have found it. Read morePublished on September 18, 2013 by Bill
This is a fascinating film about the place of gymnastics in North Korean culture. I am the mother of two elementary school-aged girls who are serious gymnasts. Read morePublished on January 26, 2013 by C. Olsen
Mesmerizing, appalling and understandable. A must see for everyone interested in a communistic society where dictatorial power almost reaches divinity...Published on December 26, 2012 by Chantal Moonen
North Korea is the least understood place in the world. No wonder. Their brainwashing makes that of Stalin and Hitler seem positively amateurish. Read morePublished on November 5, 2012 by mr. contrarian
"A State of Mind" is a fascinating documentary about life in North Korea. It traces the lives of two young female gymnasts on their path to the Mass Games, a "socialist realist... Read morePublished on January 4, 2012 by Amaranth
Prior to watching A State of Mind, I had never heard of the Mass Games. They are a sight to behold and this film does an exquisite job of showing the efforts that go into creating... Read morePublished on October 15, 2011 by Angela
A State of Mind is an incredible look into some of the more commonly discussed points of North Korean life as lived by a group of privileged North Koreans. Read morePublished on September 4, 2011 by Amazon Customer
I did enjoy this movie, which I first watched 5 years ago in Tokyo.
Thank you a whole lot !!
I was astonished after watching this British documentary about North Korea. Filmmakers used the state event of great proportions that is showcasing young teenagers preparing for... Read morePublished on May 23, 2011 by Eugenia