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Review: Under the Sun

July 15, 2016

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Under the Sun PosterAlthough filmed under the close watch of officials, and featuring a script written by the North Korean government, who clearly intended the project to be self-serving propaganda, Under the Sun actually becomes a fascinating exploration of censorship.

Gaining permission to tell the story of a young family as their daughter Zin-mi prepares to join the Korean Union for Children, director Vitaly Mansky kept the camera rolling between takes of this documentary, to reveal the excessive amount of control that authorities exercised over every aspect of the production.

Extended sequences like a mundane family dinner become disturbing when the subjects are asked to do another take, with every action and word of dialogue being tightly monitored and scripted, as onscreen text periodically tells us what aspects of their lives have been embellished or changed completely just to make for a better sounding story.

Providing an eery real world counterpart of sorts to The Interview, Under the Sun is both fascinating and incredibly surreal to watch, unfolding mainly in long takes that gives us a hypnotizing glimpse into what life is really like for a child in North Korea, being taught only propaganda in school and growing up under the tight control of the repressive government.  See it while you still can.

Under the Sun is now playing in limited release at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (formerly the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema) in Toronto.  Tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

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