Kimjongilia - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Kimjongilia Reviews

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January 24, 2011
"We have to free the North Koreans...they can't speak. The world has to save North Korea. We have to speak of it."
This is the function, this is the power of the documentary, this is the power of film. This is a film with a real purpose, almost so overwhelmingly so that the word 'film' hardly seems appropriate; even it seems to fall short. This is not a retrospective piece, this is happening right now. The documentary is a cry for help, and a desperate one. Everyone, everywhere needs to see it.
½ December 30, 2010
A beautiful insight into these people's lives, and how badly this country's people need help.
December 29, 2010
Remember the prison camps you read about in the history books about WWII? They're still around. Today.
December 25, 2010
Fascinating glimpse into the otherwise closed off world of North Korea. The stories of those who left were striking and often moving. I would, however have been even more fascinated by a few more accounts of daily life and its challenges there. Though stories of crisis are gripping and tragic, as riveting for me are stories of day to day survival in situations of hardship and the kind of long term oppression, starvation/shortage, propaganda and disinformation that must be the norm in such a place. Still, a very interesting film that will confirm your worst inferences about North Korea and its current regime.
½ December 5, 2010
Could've done without the artfag dancing scenes and graphics, but the testimonies are absolutely brutal.
½ December 3, 2010
The testimonies in the documentary and some of the propaganda footage are worthwhile for anyone interested in the subject. The doc will also shock many who are less familiar with these stories and the human rights violations taking place in North Korea.

But I will never understand why human rights groups and filmmakers can't let the story speak for itself. Is the epic dysfunction and misery in North Korea not captivating enough? Do we really need interpretative dance to emphasize why three generation policies are horrifying? These types of techniques feel emotionally manipulative and unnecessary.
July 22, 2010
Compulsively watching and horrifying, N.C. Heikin takes you into the most up close and personal look into Kim Jong Il's North Korea. Featuring interviews with actual North Korean refugees, this movie goes way beyond the headlines, and creates a factual, intimate, and deeply disturbing portrait of a modern day dictatorship. This is essential viewing!
March 16, 2010
The content of the movie is undoubtedly very interesting but I found the way its made quite irritating, especially the occasional "arty" motives, the music etc.
October 17, 2009
interesting subject matter, unremarkably told
½ July 26, 2009
All testimony but little evidence. Risks aping the propaganda it targets.
½ April 28, 2009
A painfully short-sighted account of the current North Korea as done by American director NC Helkin. Accounts of the wretched state of the dictatorship are given by North Korean refugees in heartfelt testimony but the factual basis of the claims made seems thrown together here. All of the scenes of genuine human suffering are thematically pulled together with the help of interpretive dance which I found inappropriate. A more factual film with less concern about visual entertainment wouldve been a better treatment of the subject matter.
April 23, 2009
shocking. thought provoking, brutal. If every diplomat and politician in the world watches this -- there would be no more "concentration camps," there would be no North Korea.
February 6, 2009
Many of us here in America are at least casually aware of who Kim Jong-il is. We may have heard that the leader of North Korea hates America, we may have been told his country belongs to a modern day Axis of Evil, we may have seen him lampooned in Team America World Police, we may have come to believe that the tyrant is bat shit-crazy. Chances are though, because of North Korea's self-induced seclusion from the rest of the world, most of us probably have little idea just how tyrannical Kim Jong-il really is and just how adversely North Koreans have been effected under his reign. In steps N.C. Heikin with her documentary Kimjongilia. Interviewing multiple North Korean refugees who have fled the country to escape unspeakable atrocities, Kimjongilia gives a voice to those who have previously been silenced by oppression. Finally given the freedom to speak, the tales the refugees have to tell are difficult to hear. Often shocking and difficult to comprehend, Kimjongilia is nevertheless an eye-opening examination of a nation and leader of whom we've been harmfully too ignorant to the detriment of thousands of innocent lives.

The title of the film, Kimjongilia, comes from the name of a flower presented to the North Korean leader that, crazy as it may sound, symbolizes love, wisdom, justice, and peace. As outsiders here in the west, it's easy to condemn a man whose administration refuses to allow the media inside the country, maintains slave labor within concentration camps, executes deserters and critics of the country, and does it all while propaganda films and commercials convince North Korean citizens that their leader is a benevolent god in human form. As an audience, we can hear the stories about the man hung upside down and beaten for 14 hours and the woman who fled to China only to be sold as a sex slave by traffickers and think, "of course, whoever propagates this atmosphere is evil." The true horror about such tales though, is that North Koreans assume everything they're subjected to is business as usual. Refugees who escape to even the poorest sections of China or South Korea are shocked and amazed to see that everyone has food on the table every day, even if it's only something as meager as rice. If they stay in North Korea, they must abide by laws that command them to eat only twice a day in an effort to curb the agricultural and financial poverty caused after Kim Jong-il reportedly divvied up billions in NGO aid to the richest portion of the country.

Despite this and the fact that thousands of people have been executed and imprisoned within concentration camps - yeah, the Nazi kind - there are still grandiose parades and celebrations performed by hundreds and thousands of Kim Jong-il supporters who believe it is their duty to support the "President for Life."

For many of the terrorized citizens, fleeing to nearby countries such as China or South Korea may be their only hope of living without fear. Fleeing, however, is often times even more difficult and risky than staying put. Citizens who can't afford to bribe border guards risk death, imprisonment, and torture if they are caught trying to escape. Even if they cross the border and manage to avoid the traffickers willing to sell them back to North Korea or into sexual slavery, they still need to set up a new life from scratch in a foreign country with no money. If their treason is discovered, not only can the "perpetrator" be imprisoned, but so can their parents, their kids, and other family members. One interviewee was the only successful border crosser from a family of 10 children who tried while another had both of her sons executed for trying. Of course, once admitting these things to anyone, especially an American, they can never return to the country again. At least, not while Kim Jong-il is in power.

However, "while Kim Jong-il is in power" is the imperative phrase there. Many of the refugees admit they would return to the country they love in a heart beat if the dictator was removed from power. Despite all they've suffered through, they realize the atrocities they've faced are associated with a man and not with a country. Through this, they show remarkable perspectives and though some of them breakdown in tears literally pleading for change, they also realize that because they have the opportunity to tell their stories, the hope of change exists.
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