Kimjongilia - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Kimjongilia Reviews

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April 18, 2014
A powerful documentary about a sick, terrible place and the people who have to live there.
½ March 8, 2014
A very hard hitting documentary about North Korean defectors, and their struggle to survive under one of the worse dictatorships in history.
I had any idea of how bad things are in North Korea, but the testimonies of these poor people horrified me. What the North Korean government does to it own people angers me and sickens me at the same time.
I hope one day for a unified Korea, and that the North Korean leaders be tried for crimes against humanity.
½ May 24, 2013
Amazing stories from courageous ex North Koreans. It's true North Korea needs saved. A good time to start would be now.
½ April 13, 2013
It's a depressing embarrassment that a totalitarian system such as the one that exists in North Korea still exists today.
March 23, 2013
Informational and heart-wrenching, but once again after watching a documentary, I'm left with the feeling of helplessness.
½ March 20, 2013
This is basically a movie about people telling their sad stories. Each tale that these victims tell is certainly tragic, but the movie does nothing to educate me about the topic.
½ September 14, 2012
Fantastic look at propaganda... Dancers were a bit strange, though...
May 28, 2012
A very disturbing and emotional documentary on the lives of those North Korea destroyed. Yet, it strangely feels a little scarce with just 75 minutes of film time. No doubt what Kimjongilia executed was very well done, but you just can't help but feel that there's a little more to the story than "Kim Jong Il evil, North Korea evil". Essentially, if you are aware of the political prison death camps in North Korea, then this documentary serve only as a reminder on the horrors behind North Korea's closed doors. Which isn't a bad thing, but Kimjongilia serves nothing more than an introduction to the problems of North Korea. Those who are looking for a deeper look into the dysfunctional nation's problems are better off looking for a more insightful documentary and the history is skimmed over a little too quickly.
½ March 20, 2012
A difficult movie to watch, but a must for anyone wanting to know more about North Korea's recent history. How the rest of the world allows this regime to continue is beyond me.
½ February 17, 2012
The subject has all to offer, but this film suffered from lack of depth regarding the subject. Still interesting to hear the views of North Koreans from their own mouth. What can I say, frustrating and heart-breaking.
January 1, 2012
Fascinating and Very Badly Filmed

I was about the only person I know who wasn't laughing when Kim Jong-il died. However, I was too worried about the fate of his country and his people. To my knowledge, no country in the world has ever had a government like North Korea's, and I think the average American thinks far too little about that. It was easy to laugh at Kim Jong-il, Gods know, and Gods know I've done some of the laughing myself. But the whole thing is very uncertain. The current ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, will probably be turning twenty-eight in a week, which is awfully young for the ruler of the country with the fourth-largest military in the world. An unknown number of people are in political prisons. Gulags, not to put to fine a point on it. And even more are starving. North Korea is a deeply troubled little country, and I'm inclined to doubt that the death of one loony is going to make much a difference on the subject, so I don't laugh much.

The people interviewed here are probably ill-inclined to laugh themselves. They are survivors, for the most part, of North Korea's gulag system. All of them are escapees--there is no such thing as normal emigration out of North Korea now. Most of them went through China, because the demilitarized zone with South Korea is too heavily guarded. One, knowing his family would probably be split up if they went through China, sailed south in a small boat in foggy seas past the North Korean navy. Which turned out to be sail-powered, because they didn't have any fuel. One of the women was sold into sexual slavery in China; another was carried across the border while in a coma, because medical treatment was actually better in China. One man talks of being tortured and of desperately trying to preserve his hands, because he was a concert pianist. There are tales of starvation. One man tells of his escape from the camp which almost certainly required the death of his only friend.

The problem, loosely, is the interpretative dance. You see how that's a jarring transition? Now imagine that you're being told the rules of the camps--which basically all end with "will be punished immediately by death by firing squad"--and some woman in the uniform of a North Korean policewoman is writhing about on the floor. The feel I got was that director N. C. Heikin, apparently herself a dancer, didn't want to do a mere "talking heads" documentary. And there isn't a lot of footage and such of the camps. This is ongoing, and Kim Jong-il wasn't exactly letting people take pictures and publish them worldwide. There are satellite images of the camps, and one of the people interviewed has done drawings, but most of what you have is people talking. And so in order to make it "interesting," she filmed the people at odd angles, so we only got eyes and mouths. To make us really feel what was going on, interpretive dance. And it doesn't work.

What's being said is compelling enough. There is a small amount of background given, including clips from those ridiculous giant production numbers the North Korean government forces the people into and a couple of truly bizarre propaganda films. By and large, though, this is a handful of deeply personal stories which paint a picture of a failing country. One woman talks of being forced to sing about spreading the bountiful rice while starving to death. A man talks about how the military itself was starving, about how they planted over their basketball courts and soccer fields with beans. And when North Korea asked for humanitarian aid after the fall of the Soviet Union, it's estimated that at least thirty percent and as much as seventy percent was diverted to the country's elite. All things considered, it probably won't be long until the North Korean elite are themselves starving, but they weren't at the time and anyway they weren't that much of the population.

It was easy to make fun of Kim Jong-il, given he was a tiny little man with enormous hair and the kind of sunglasses you used to see on [i]Coffee Talk[/i]. How do you take him seriously after the stories about how he used to, before people wised up and stopped taking the invitations, invite people he admired to come visit him in North Korea and then not let them leave? And his father just looked so [i]nice[/i]. And yet somehow, they were the world's only Communist monarchist theocracy, based on the worship of Kim Il-sung as the Sun God. (Technically, he's not officially dead yet; he's Eternal President of North Korea.) It's a horrible totalitarian dictatorship, but because we know so little about it, it's easy to make fun of it. All we see is the laughable figurehead--and we've already started making fun of Kim Jong-un's weight. Though I suppose "big bones" isn't enough of an explanation given how much of the country is starving to death. It's just that I don't think we think about that aspect of things at all, and we should.
½ December 20, 2011
Really hard to watch about the cruelty in North Korea. But important.
½ August 13, 2011
A really crazy, sad and poor reality in North Korea. I hope they would get human rights in China and North Korea soon....
½ July 28, 2011
pretty much everything I already knew.. but still it can be eye-opening to a lot of people in the world.
½ July 3, 2011
This film conveys a strong message/theme that is factually-sound and emotionally-stirring. Yet, several factors detract from the overall effectiveness of the message:
- Interviews with North Korean defectors become repetitive; aside from the few unique personal stories of their escape or family history, the interviews all express the exact same messages/emotions, just stated in different words
- History was covered in a bit too much brevity
- The interjection of modern dance scenes set to sorrowful music, as well as montages of defectors' faces, is too frequent; they becomes tiresome, almost cheesy, and come across as if they're added only to draw out the length of the film

Ultimately, there just isn't enough content to fill the 1 hr 15 min duration of the film without excessive repetition, montages, and dance scenes. Cut to 1 hr, and this would be a much more effective film.
June 23, 2011
North Korea is crazy! Sounds like they would be too hungry to fight if something ever went down..
May 22, 2011
Kim Jong Il is a major dick hole!
½ May 22, 2011
Frightening real look at life and how things are in North Korea. The famine there killed 3 million people in the 1990's while the few privileged live rich lives. Religion is not allowed - Christians, when found out are taken, tortured and murdered. This movie contrasts the brainwashed versus reality. Shocking. Just shocking... Kimjongilia is a flower bred in North Korea to honor Kim Jongil - quite ridiculous...
April 30, 2011
At this point, I'm sure that even rain forest tree dwellers in deepest, darkest Peru know that Kim Jong Il is a Hitler-caliber monster. The first-hand accounts of his tyranny should reduce even the most jaded viewer to tears, but the uber-pretentious and heavy handed filmmaking style undermines the emotional weight of the subject.
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