Synopsis by Mark Deming
How can a nation of nearly 24 million people hold up one of the world's most infamous despots as a hero? In most of the world, Kim Jong-Il, president of North Korea, is either feared or despised; he's displayed an open willingness to use nuclear weapons on his enemies, free speech and other basic human rights are all but unknown under his rule, and while a tiny handful of people enjoy wealth in North Korea, a famine claimed the lives of over three million in the nation in the 1990s, with little improvement since. But at home, Kim Jong-Il is all but worshiped by the vast majority of his subjects, who celebrate him in song and legend, and one admirer has even bred a special begonia in his honor, which is named "Kimjongilia" and said to celebrate "wisdom, justice, love, and peace." Dancer-turned-filmmaker N.C. Heikin examines both sides of Kim Jong-Il's public persona in the documentary Kimjongilia, which compares and contrasts interviews with North Koreans who speak with awe and admiration of their president (alongside unintentionally comic state-produced propaganda films) with shocking testimony from South Korean exiles who suffered at the hands of Kim's police and spent years in his prisons. Kimjongilia received its North American premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
dictator, North Korea