Aim High in Creation

Year: 2014
Production Co: Unicorn Films
Director: Anna Broinowski
Writer: Anna Broinowski
Cast: Anna Broinowski, Peter O'Brien

Sydney filmmaker Anna Broinowski has made a strange and engaging beast with this documentary. The original intent might be as freewheeling and self-correcting as it's made out to be or it might all be a grand meta-narrative that cleverly gets across several very different and important points.

She starts out a protester as the government prepares to sell off parts of Sydney Park – a beautiful ex-industrial green space a stone's throw from Sydney CBD – to rapacious energy companies who want to extract coal seam gas.

If you've read an alternative news website in the last five years you'll know the most common method to do so is fracking, the process of pumping water underground to literally crack the rock and release the gas – a process energy companies assure us is safe while people near fracking operations get sick and water coming out of taps becomes so flammable you can literally light it with a match.

After a seemingly failed effort to stop the plan, it occurs to Broinowski to use propaganda. She decides to learn it from the best, somehow getting access to North Korea's filmmaking elite, still a government-sponsored cadre of professionals who enjoy official largesse to produce movies that espouse the official socialist line.

While she meets with and learns under the tutelage of directors, actors, cinematographers and more, she prepares her small crew and troupe of actors back home to put together the ultimate anti-fracking propaganda film. The final 15 or so minutes of Aim High in Creation is the short film, a pastiche of cheesy North Korean film industry tropes that's part hilarious piss-take, part loving homage.

The whole exercise frames the journey both in Sydney and PyongYang in chapters laid out in the filmmaking manifesto written by Kim Jong Il when he was alive.

It's pretty common knowledge the former North Korean president was a film nut and one of the most interesting discoveries you'll make will be the reverence the North Korean military-industrial complex still holds for the cinematic arts. Say what you want about free democracies in the West – while it seems you either starve or turn hack for The Man, taking care of our artists and their visions is far from high on the list of social priorities.

Of course, based on the footage from North Korean movies Aim High in Creation claims have never been seen by Westerners, making it in the movie industry there means working within a very prescribed and approved creative approach.

All their films are 40s-era melodramas of worker struggle against the capitalist menace. Everyone is prepared to sacrifice their lives for the collective or the Dear Leader, shining eyes cast towards the majestic horizon across farmland feeding the oppressed and factories making nuclear weapons to drop on Washington.

But Broinowski meets people who are every bit as smart and who care every bit as much about life and family as we do in the West. Among Aim High In Creations' many revelations is that no matter what kind of regime you live under (whether it cuts you off from the cultural influences of the rest of the world or allows mining in a public park despite knowing it will make your kids sick), people are people.

The point of the movie might be to highlight a very different part of the world we get very little information about that isn't the hellhole it's made out to be. It might be to call attention to an urgent political issue facing urban as well as rural Australia (I for one had no idea about the extent of coal seam gas fracking in heavily populated areas).

It might also be a mash-up of the two and much more besides. Whatever Broinowski hopes to achieve Aim High in Creation, the film is as funny and tragic as it is interesting and engaging and at the very least, she show's that she's worth keeping an eye on.

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