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3.5
127 Ratings

Songs from the North

Directed by Yoo Soon-Mi
United States, South Korea, 2014
Documentary
  • Korean
  • English

Synopsis

Challenging the meaning of freedom, love, patriotism and ultimately the human condition, it tries to understand, on their own terms, the psychology and popular imaginary of the North Korean people and the political ideology of absolute love.

Our take

Lately we’ve seen plenty of directors filming in the closed world of North Korea, but few pursue their subject with the distinct sensibility and essayistic approach of South Korea-born, American filmmaker Soon-mi Yoo. Her film movingly captures the gulf between everyday people and official rhetoric.

Songs from the North Directed by Yoo Soon-Mi

Awards & Festivals

Locarno International Film Festival

2014 | Winner: Best First Feature

Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente

2015 | Winner: Special Jury Prize (International Official Selection)

Doclisboa International Film Festival

2014 | Winner: Best First Feature-Length Film Award comprising Competitions and New Visions (Culturgest First Feature Award)

[Songs from the North] creates an empathetic snapshot of a country that is almost never depicted in such an accessible light. Indeed, Yoo’s emphasis on capturing the everyday in this heavily censored state is so rare and extraordinary that her subjects can’t help but comment on it
December 09, 2014
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Along with cannily chosen movie and television clips and interviews with her own father, Soon-Mi searches for hidden truths in the cracks of state-sanctioned tours. She finds at least one great one, via a long take in which sentimental patriotic music echoes out of tinny loudspeakers while frigid citizens silently trudge across a snow-covered lot.
October 22, 2014
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Yoo’s candid camera glimpses really do amount to little more than watching the state mask drop for minuscule amounts of time. For ideological inquiry, I’d prefer Finn, but as someone fascinated by North Korea I found the film inevitably fascinating (which is not to say it hasn’t been assembled with essayistic elegance on its own terms).
September 18, 2015
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