Aim High in Creation
Director: Anna Broinowski
Synopsis: Documentary filmmaker Anna Broinowski attempts to make a movie protesting coal seam gas using propaganda methods from North Korea.
Overview: A Russian doll of a movie, Aim High in Creation is about film-making, protest, democracy, dictatorship, propaganda, freedom, coal seam gas, North Korea, acting, directing, and culture. It is a credit to Broinowski that the movie never feels cluttered and it’s intent is clearly defined throughout. Fearing the arrival of a coal seam gas drilling operation near her home, and the rise of drilling and fracking throughout Australia, Broinowski decides to make a movie protesting the operations. In an effort to discover the most persuasive methods of swaying her viewers she turns to two texts: The Cinema and Directing and On the Art of the Cinema, both written by Kim Jong Il. But learning these methods from a text isn’t enough so she, along with a scant film crew, travels to Pyongyang to meet the film-making elite of the DPRK.
Any media, be it books, documentaries, or news stories, that explore North Korea are always fascinating. DPRK is the final frontier, the most secretive country in the world, and in an age when the internet lets us go anywhere and everywhere it is incredible that there is a whole country that we can only know the smallest of details about. Broinowski keeps her focus tight, never swaying away from the film making, which is both a positive and a negative; a positive as North Korean cinema is vast black hole in a lot of people’s knowledge and something that Kim Jong Il was obsessed with, meaning that he elevated artists to the higher echelons of society, matched only by the military and Party members; a negative is that the movie portrays a certain version of North Korea that avoids the splitting of families following the Korean War, the mass famines, the gulags, the executions, the re-educations, torture, cruelty, and tyranny.
An argument for that could simply be that this movie is not about that. It is about North Korean cinema, and coal seam gas in Australia, and that as a subject is very interesting. Broinowski spends time with writers, directors, composers, actors, and actresses, and we see their varied methods in practice in the DPRK and then transferred to Australia to make a protest film that could never be made in North Korea. Aim High in Creation is very compelling as it deals with some big subjects in a relatable, fun way. If you’re looking for a movie that delves into the horror of the North Korean regime, this is not it, but as a cultural document on how cinema is made in the world’s most secretive nation it is an enlightening glimpse behind the iron curtain of one of the world’s surviving communist nations.