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.
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] 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
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.
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).
This movie was a breathtaking look into the daily lives of North Koreans through the eyes of director Soon-Mi Yoo. she takes three separate trips to the hermit kingdom and gets an in depth look at the sort of hostage situation that the average north Korean is trapped in and how drastically the situation is in the Korean peninsula is than what is portrayed and talked about in american media and popular culture.
Given the limited ability of the director to film everyday life in a clearly strict, secluded, and secretive lifestyle, this film was well done. Of course, the more footage and the more immersive the footage, the better. The film exposes the severity of North Korean sentiment towards the west as well a painful remembrance of the evils committed on their soil from World War II as well as the Korean War.
Is North Korea the loneliest place on Earth? Yoo's haunting film about fatherland posits perhaps. But perhaps not. We in the West may be inured to atomist anomie, but citizens of the DPRK, beset (not to say bombarded) by relentlessly on-point propaganda, are marinated in a mythology that accords every individual a place in one big striving family. The mythology, though thin, taps deep reserves of grievance and pride.
The amazing opening footage establishes a profound sense of fragility. This is a wounded country, and the only hope the people have is to cling on to is a desperate collective mythology. What else can they trust? Understandably not the western bloc powers that turned their country into rubble.
Closely related with Ujica's "Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu", is exactly in the collection and coordination of period documents with propaganda films that the film earns its greater expressiveness: a critical review of history, in constant becoming, through the matter of its own memorabilia. We came out from the film with the memory of a nostalgic musical about one dreary and factual reality.
Filmmaker Soon-mi Yoo gives a quiet, personal look into the lives of North Korean people. Using simple methods and various clips strewn together, the documentary has a slow moving feel. What keeps the viewer watching is the air of mystery that surrounds North Korea and the connection felt between the people living out their every day lives in such a strange and limited place. This was a calm look into a bizarre place
Songs From the North is a collection of footage from the director's (Yoo Soon-Mi) three trips to Korea. This film grasps for inside knowledge about the North Korean people. Yoo Soon-Mi really tries to force the audience to step back and reevaluate the North Korean culture, because most American's have been mislead due to exaggerated propaganda. But in reality, we're all human, we all have to capability to love.