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Notebook on Cities and Culture S3E8: Pyongyang Style with Rob Montz

Colin Marshall sits down in Los Angeles’ Koreatown with filmmaker Rob Montz, director of Juche Strong, a short documentary about North Korea and its propaganda. They discuss reaching the same age as Kim Jong-un without a hermit kingdom to rule; the question of why North Koreans continue to believe in their state, despite having good reason not to; his early fascination with North Korea’s World Cup showing, and how pursuing that fascination led him from standard opinions on the country to newer, more interesting ones; his realization that North Korean ideology comes built upon the same basic structures of psychological truth that any of us have; his interviewing of experts on North Korea, and their disagreements about the nature of the Juche idea; his trip to Pyongyang, and how it didn’t require him to hide underwater from North Korean commandos, breathing through a reed; the state’s aspirations to totalitarian watchfulness, and how incompetence shatters that image right at the airport; the boredom a visitor to North Korea endures, and how that boredom differs from the boredom we experience in the developed world, where we’ve mostly cured it; the nihilism that sets upon a mind deprived of the ability to autonomously create meaning and provide purpose; how life in the constant American stimulation stream may render you more vulnerable to boredom when you momentarily step out of it; how many pleasures a people will willingly forego if they’re given a larger sense of purpose and community, and how we know the North Korean government knows this; what North and South Korea still have ideologically in common, though the South chose the means of ideological expression that let its people get fed; Confucian values on both sides of the DMZ, and how they even manifest in the strange filial piety of East Asian friends; his extension of the examination of North Korean-style propaganda to United States politics, and especially the ceaseless repetition of the phrase “God bless America” therein; of Washington, D.C., where homosexual atheist political operatives instruct Republican politicians to insist  upon the divine ordainment of American exceptionalism an inveigh against the “gay menace”; and how you can help fund the completion of Juche Strong on Indie Go Go (not to mention the clam-roasting footage you can get for doing so).

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