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Australia 2013
Directed by
Anna Broinowski
96 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Aim High In Creation

Synopsis: Documentary maker Anna Broinowski sets about making an environmentalist propaganda films using the techniques of the North Korean film industry.

Anna Broinowski’s documentary, whilst not exactly working in itself, is based on an appealing concept, one that takes us on an eye-opening visit to a place about which we know little, North Korea.

A resident of inner city Sydney Broinowski was involved in a citizens' campaign to stop “fracking” in Sydney Park. As she relates it in her narration, being a film-maker (she was co-director of the 2007 documentary Forbidden Lie$) she was casting about for a way to use her skills to advance the campaign against the overwhelming resources of Big Business and came up with the idea of going to North Korea to learn at first-hand the art of propaganda film-making from the most effectively brain-washed nation on earth.

It sounds like a bit of a beat-up, somewhat like the James Toback/Alec Baldwin doco Seduced And Abandoned (2013) but like that film what results is still worth watching.

There are two main strands to Broinowski's film. One is her visit to Pyongyang where she meets some of the leading lights of North Korean cinema and learns the film-making  principles of Kim Jong-il (being a dictator the ideological power of film was of great interest to him and he actually wrote a film-makers‘ manual). The other is a kind of behind-the-scenes preparation of her Sydney cast. The two parts come together in a short film in which Broinowski applies the lessons she has learned to fight the capitalist running dogs.

Interesting as it is to meet North Koreans at first hand there is something a little dubious about Broinowski's project which is almost Sacher Baron Cohen-like in ingratiating itself with its subjects, the guileless North Koreans accepting her in good faith but not realizing that they are actually being used as comic material.  Fortunately, their time-warp fixation with “bastard Americans” and the splendours of nuclear weaponary notwithstanding. they acquit themselves handsomely, coming across as a generous and good-natured people.

The part of the film that deals with the Sydney side of things is less appealing. The already considerable presence of fracking on the NSW East Coast is appalling and there are some touching stories disturbingly similar to the 2010 US documentary, Gasland of its diabolical nature but the prepping of her cast is a piecemeal affair with one of the actors, Peter O'Brien, seemingly sorry that he ever got involved in the project in the first place and the rest of them doing their best but with little understanding of what is required of them. Which pretty much goes to the heart of the problem with the film. Aim High In Creation is less about its purported goal, making a film to save the environment, than it is in having fun at another's culture's expense.  It shows in the North Koreans' faces when we see them watching the ten minute film that Broinowski has made. Despite the valiant efforts of their chief to see good in the project, most of them seem to be saying to themselves “is that all there is?”




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