If you’re looking for a Vice-style fast paced documentary on North Korea then ‘Under The Sun’ isn’t the film for you.
The film is directed by Vitaliy Manskiy, a Ukrainian filmmaker well known for shooting in Post-Soviet countries. In this case he’s taken it one step back and decided to film in a still Soviet country. Under The Sun is a slow burning piece and not for those easily bored, I consider myself strong willed when it comes to film but even I found myself needing a cold splash to the face at times.
‘Under The Sun’ reveals just how far North Korea goes in trying to present a good image abroad, Vitaliy Manskiy was given a script by the government and told to film it to their specifications. Instead he weaved a kind of hybrid documentary, using the government approved film as a cover to capture the more real and surreal parts of North Korean life.
The film captures the small, intimate moments of the individuals inside North Korea, ones which the government goes to great lengths to prevent you from seeing. The poignancy of this film is in the long and uncut scenes of North Koreans doing seemly mundane tasks.
One such scene is a long close up of a child falling asleep while a Korean War veteran tells her class about gunning down American “cowards” planes, even after being told to look like “she was at the movies”. It makes you feel sad that a young child is forced to listen to such violence and humanises the North Korean people in a way unseen in any other documentary on the subject.
The film’s stunning cinematography brings out the emotions the filmmaker intended, the music builds each scene up and brings out the hardship experienced by many North Koreans. A must see for anyone interested in the country.