The Australian film-maker who shot a North Korean propaganda film


A Walkley Award-winning filmmaker and author, Anna Broinowski is the only Australian filmmaker that has been granted access to the North Korean propaganda film industry. Unlike some individuals that buy essays online in Australia, Broinowski is unique and very talented. One of her documentaries Forbidden Lies has been declared one of the top 100 Australian films of the new age. After her short documentary Aim High in Creation, she released Pauline Hanson: Please Explain in 2016.


It is very rare for anyone to be allowed to make research in North Korea, most especially when it is about the propaganda movie industry. Anna Broinowski is amongst the rare, lucky ones that have been granted this opportunity. Although, things became a little bit different for her.

After she made her own little movie in a North-Korean style, she never knew she would very soon be working with North Korea’s greatest film directors in the production of a propaganda movie.

Anna shooting with her camera in Pyongyang

When Broinowski visited North Korea, she lived in a highly militarized area with lots of landmines. In her bid to handle the gas mine close to her home, she began the research which yielded results that made her the only Western citizen to be granted complete access to the propaganda film industry in North Korea. This was possible because there was a new leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un, whose father (the previous leader) was infatuated about filmmaking.

While in North Korea, Broinowski made several new friends and took lessons from her superiors in the propaganda industry. She played the role of an American wife in the film which was the story of the capture of a United States spy ship in 1968.

Anna Broinowski tells everyone in the story about her experience that the North Koreans are indeed nothing everyone sees them as. They showed her that they were not the overly simplistic and mind controlled individuals we all think they are.

They were interested in her work and her background, and eager to find out more about her. While interacting with the Australian film directors, Broinowski discovered the awkward sense of humour and free personalities possessed by the North Koreans.
Although she was allowed to see almost everything, Anna was banned from checking out the million-man army and going to the telecine labs.


In 2015, the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division was celebrated. Anna Broinowski’s short movie Aim High in Creation which allowed her access to North Korea’s industry was screened in a festival. This was a huge milestone for Anna because the South Koreans are not allowed to watch any movie created by the North Koreans.

Although the country is divided, South Koreans were able to take a peek into the lives of those on the other side of their country. They were marvelled at the documentary depicting the normal lives of the people their government wouldn’t let them see.

The trailer of Broinowski’s short film shows a few clips of what she experienced when she visited North Korea.

Why Watching Foreign Films Is Illegal In North Korea

Watching a movie or a film of your choice is a nice way of entertainment. However, North Koreans have limited access to foreign films and movies. The cinema of North Korea has faced a number of challenges from the totalitarian regime, for example, all film production is supervised by the workers’ party of Korea and is mainly concerned with propaganda. Below is a detailed explanation concerning films in North Korea.

a) Risk of Imprisonment

Citizens who are found in possession of foreign movie videos, especially Chinese ones, risk imprisonment or paying heavy fines. Recently, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and his authorities increased the maximum punishment for watching foreign movies, videos, and drama to up to ten years behind bars. Previously the punishment was two years in jail but this increase of up to a decade is believed to be an attempt to scrap western influence within North Korea.

b) Watching Foreign Movies is Illegal in North Korea

Despite restrictions on watching foreign videos and movies from North Korea’s authorities, some people do it anyway. In North Korea, it is illegal for one to possess foreign films but people have found new means of acquiring and accessing these films.

The black market has made it easy and possible for individuals to acquire foreign media. Traders and smugglers use USB sticks and SD cards to ferry films in North Korea instead of DVDs.

c) North Korea Limits Its’ Citizens from Accessing Foreign Information

North Koreans have no right or access to foreign information. Such beliefs have made the people in power to deny the citizens their right to viewing or selling foreign media. It is dangerous for one to be caught watching a foreign movie or film in North Korea. If one is caught with foreign media, they risk punishment or having to bribe their way out of trouble.

Despite the efforts of the government to isolate the citizens from information, the people have found new but illegal means of accessing movies and films like burning DVDs into USB drives and SD cards.

d) The State Controls Distribution of Movies and Films

In North Korea, the government controls what the people watch as part of a bid to protect the nation from foreign influences. The government controls domestic media and access to foreign movies, books, radio, and television is limited. A state-owned video company called Mokran distributes only DVDs of Russian movies featuring the World War Two.

In any country, people will choose what they would like to watch and not what the government prefers. For example, some North Koreans may prefer to watch love stories and dramas but it is difficult.

e) Radio and TV

The North Korean Government modifies the radio distributed in the country so that they only tune to certain frequencies and especially government-operated stations. With such limitations, the demand for foreign content, videos and films are high thus the black market thrives. The North Koreans biggest threat is access to information.

In summary, the content above answers the question of why it is illegal to watch foreign films in North Korea. North Koreans have limited access to foreign movies and films.

The five best North Korean films

Korean cinema inspires movie directors from across the world. They provide such good entertainment to all classes of the audience”. Moreover, they rule all genres including drama, horror, thriller, war, comedy and more. Furthermore, their movies are extremely well crafted and involve refreshing themes. More often than not, Korean cinema is understood to be of South Korea’s.

Let’s just take it a few hundred miles north. North Korea indeed has a cine industry too. People love to watch those movies and have some insights about life in North Korea. Here are the top 5 North Korean films you can’t afford to miss.

Marathon Runner (2002)

Though filmed in 2002, intentional or not, Marathon Runner looks like an 80s production. This movie is based on a real event. It’s a tale of athleticism and determination. It gives glimpses of the North Korean lifestyle. The film is based on Jong Song-0k’s leap to athletics championship in 99 Olympics.

Her path was met with obstacles of injuries and family issues. In the end, with support from Kim Jong-il and Kim II Sung, she won the gold.

Pulgasari (1985)

For starters, it’s a fantasy, monster film. There are dark overtones and plenty of action. Nevertheless, this movie is known for being infamous.

They kidnapped people to do this movie. It’s a North Korean attempt to make a Godzilla styled movie. The plot goes like this. An imprisoned blacksmith makes an effigy of a Godzilla type creature. It comes to life and wrecks havoc. Some parallels can be drawn towards the ill effects of capitalism. It’s a propaganda film nonetheless.

Hong Kil Dong (1986)

It is a movie that definitely had an influence of Shin Shang-ok. It’s more of entertainment and less of ideology. Things such as this don’t happen often in North Korea.

The plot focuses on Robin Hood-like character who robs from the rich and delivers to the poor. Not only cash and goods, but he can also deliver quite a beatdown too. There is an abundance of swordplay, flying high kicks and wire job, Low budget can be felt.

The Flower Girl (1972)

It’s the most famous North Korean film to date. Locally, it’s dubbed as an “immortal classic”. The” movie tries to be along the ideologies of the Kims.

In the offset of Japanese rule in the 1920’s, it focuses on a young woman being mistreated by her landlord. Not just her, the entire family suffers the tragic fate. The communist army comes as the saviour in the climax. The movie tells a lot about the average North Korean sensibilities.

Centre Forward (1978)

Even four decades back, the current day troubles of soccer were exactly the same. Evidently, that’s something this movie proves beyond doubt. It’s amongst the least politically jarred North Korean films.

It involves powerful owners, star players and loyal fans. It’s about a budding football star who wants to represent the local team. The movie expresses their love for football. It’s heavily influenced by 1966 Football World Cup in England. The North Koreans had the game of their lives in that tournament.