State of Mind is a documentary shot in Pyongyang in North Korea about a couple of school girl gymnasts preparing for the North Korean Mass Games.

It’s the details that are interesting. People live in large concrete apartment buildings and have food rations allocated to them (1 chicken and five eggs per person per month). Like Orwell’s 1984, every kitchen has a radio set to the national station which cannot be turned off. Pyongyang itself is all statues, decaying buildings and 8 lane highways with no cars.

Through the films narrow scope however, it seems that the people are getting on with life. The schoolgirls train between 2 – 8 hours a day for the Games with an intensity that any dedicated sports person would recognise although their dedication also seems to be mixed with fan ardour for the General that I’m more used to seeing in association with rock stars.

It could be that the government was very careful in selecting the participants or it could be that complete control of information flowing into the country is a worthwhile strategy, but the two families in the documentary seemed to genuinely love their communist state and genuinely hate the Americans. Phrases such as ‘Imperialist American forces wanting to silence laughter in North Korea’ and ‘so long as we have our General, we will be safe’ fall from their lips with ease and sincerity.

But in the end, the film only offered a brief and tantalising glimpse of North Korea. I left it with an immense curiousity about the state, the people and most of all the life there.

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