re “Under the Sun” (a film about North Korea)



Last month, I saw Under the Sun (2015) a documentary film about North Korea, five times within a period of a few days! Each time I went back I saw something I had missed.

The film, in Korean, was directed by the Russian documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky.

It is beautifully done and tugs and pulls at the viewer emotionally on many levels. The central person in the film, who is unforgettable, is an adorable eight-year-old North Korean girl named Zin-mi.

A New York Times critic, Glenn Kenny, made the following very perceptive, right on the money comment about the film: “It touches a nerve substantially deeper than the ‘I’m sure glad I don’t live there’ one.”

The film features beautiful, elegiac music — used sparingly with great effect — composed by a Latvian composer, Karlis Auzans.

The North Korean government went to great lengths to try to prevent the film from being released.

The film is a “quasi documentary.” The compelling thing about it is that you come away caring about the people and touched by the film’s PATHOS — despite the fact that one is aware that the people live regimented lives in a totalitarian state where they have been effectively brainwashed and reduced almost to automatons (or so it often seems).



— Roger W. Smith

   August 2016









The trailer is at






Some articles about Under the Sun:



“Under the Sun,” Two Views of North Korea (film review)

The New York Times

July 5, 2016



“Under the Sun,” a Documentary Masked and Unmasked

The New York Times

July 1, 2016



MoMA Apologizes for Dropping a Film Critical of North Korea

The New York Times

June 10, 2016




“Under the Sun” documentary catches North Korea with its guard down

Los Angeles Times

July 6, 2016



“Under the Sun” Review: A Terrifying Glimpse Inside North Korea’s Dictatorship


July 6, 2016

‘Under the Sun’ Review: A Terrifying Glimpse Inside North Korea’s Dictatorship



Film Review: “Under the Sun”


June 19, 2016

Film Review: ‘Under the Sun’



Russian film exposes the workings of North Korea’s propaganda machine

The Guardian

December 2, 2015




About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; classical music; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1), a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
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