Stranger in a Strange Land
I rented this to get a glimpse of what life in North Korea was like -anything at all - as with much history, when you start off with onejourney, you find another. I did not know 4 US Army soldiers defectedto North Korea in 1962-63. That was a huge embarrassment to the US anda propaganda windfall for the DPK, who not surprisingly, exploitedthese four soldiers. They made speeches denouncing the US, were winedand dined by the North Koreans and even starred in North Korean movies(as the bad guys, of course).
This documentary centers on the one of first to cross the border -James "Comrade Joe" Dresnok. The story is told from his perspective.Since 2 of the others died and 1 escaped to Japan, only Joe is left inNorth Korea. Does he have regrets? Does he wish to return to the west?Has he been brain washed? How did he enjoy his life in a gilded cage?He learned the language, culture and to say the words, but does he meanthem? About the only thing you can be sure of is that Joe does not likefellow defector Charles Jenkins who managed to get to Japan in 2004.
One suspects that Joe is saying literally, the party line. He knows inorder to eat in a land where natives are starving; he must continue todefend his decision and North Korea. Since the four defectors tried toescape North Korea in the late 1960's (by going to the Soviet Embassy -duh!) and spent the next 10 years being're-educated', Joe's statementsof loyalty to the North Koreans rings hollow.
This is a good documentary, not excellent - it can be slow at times,and one tires of hearing Joe defend himself and his actions. He comesoff as disingenuous at best, not someone worthy of hate, but pity. 6.5stars