Directed by N.C. Heikin • Documentary • 2009 • 75 minutes
North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated nations. For sixty years, North Koreans have been governed by a totalitarian regime that controls all information entering and leaving the country. A cult of personality surrounds its two recent leaders: first, Kim Il Sung, and now his son, Kim Jong Il. For Kim Jong Il’s 46th birthday, a hybrid red begonia named kimjongilia was created, symbolizing wisdom, love, justice, and peace. The film draws its name from the rarefied flower and reveals the extraordinary stories told by survivors of North Korea’s vast prison camps, of devastating famine, and of every kind of repression. All of the interviews featured took place in South Korea, where the defectors now live.
Kimjongilia examines the mass illusion possible under totalitarianism and the human rights abuses required to maintain that illusion. Ultimately, the defectors are inspiring, for despite the extremes they have suffered, they still hold out hope for a better future.
"A visually striking, inventively constructed documentary that intercuts grim testimony from North Korean defectors with a wide variety of unusual footage." —Los Angeles Times