A Russian documentary crew follows a young North Korean girl (Lee Zin-Mi) for a year as she prepares to enter the Workers’ Party’s Children’s Union in Pyongyang. With birthday celebrations for the late Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il underway, Zin-Mi learns about her country’s glorious history at school, attends patriotic pageants, and enjoys traditional foods in her spartan apartment with her two “exemplary” parents.
What initially appears to be a candid look at a typical Korean family is quickly revealed to be something much more sinister: a deftly orchestrated display of propaganda and deceit. North Korean “guides” accompany Mansky, staging every scene and writing every word of dialogue. Mansky skirts their efforts to manipulate the images by slyly letting his cameras run and smuggling out the extra footage. The result is a revealing and disturbing glimpse into this shuttered country.