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A State of Mind (2004)

| Documentary | 2004 (UK)
A British documentary that follows two young North Korean girls as they prepare for the Mass Games, the world's largest choreographed gymnastics performance.




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Cast overview:
Daniel Gordon ...
Himself - Narrator (voice)
Hyon Sun Pak ...
Herself - Gymnast
Song Yun Kim ...
Herself - Gymnast
Kim Jong-il ...
Himself - Supreme Leader, North Korea (archive footage) (as Jong-il Kim)
Jong Ho Kim ...
Himself - Mass Games Organizer


A British documentary that follows two young North Korean girls as they prepare for the Mass Games, the world's largest choreographed gymnastics performance.

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Release Date:

2004 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Die jungen Tänzerinnen aus Pjöngjang  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$5,515 (USA) (12 August 2005)


$41,468 (USA) (11 November 2005)

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User Reviews

Done well--and with a minimum of narration.
21 August 2014 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

I don't like to politicize my reviews. I have found that in practically ever land there are amazingly good films--regardless of the political tensions between my country and theirs. For example, although things are a bit tense now with Iran, this nation has made some wonderful films--such as the films of Majid Majidi which manage to transcend nations and ideologies. So, if you are willing to be open-minded and look, you can find good everywhere in my opinion. However, this is a difficult proposition with North Korea. They don't seem to be making movies and there simply is almost no opportunity to look into their culture to see what the nation is like, as there simply is almost nothing going in or out of this isolated nation. However, back about a decade or so ago, a few small glimpses occurred and "A State of Mind" is one of them*. Like it or not, for now this is all we appear to have from which we can learn about this nation. And, because of that, I think it's well worth seeing.

"A State of Mind" is a film made by a British production company. They were invited to the nation to follow several girls as they prepared for the 'Mass Games'. These games are ENORMOUS pageants in which many days of mass parades and performances are done to honor their leader. Some of these HUGE spectacles required 80,000 people and millions of man- hours according to the film!! The devotion and energy of the participants is difficult to imagine in our Western cultures and I would never imagine folks I know joining in a massive celebration in which the individual is sublimated to the glory of the State. It's just so very foreign--and this is what makes the film hard to stop watching. It is almost like looking onto an alien culture--and this is NOT meant as a criticism at all.

What I liked best is that the narrators didn't over-narrate or opine about the nation. Instead, they mostly just showed the people and let them talk. Now I might have liked to have heard about the restrictions placed on the filmmakers--such as where they could and couldn't visit and questions they could or could not ask. But, this is really not all that important--what IS important is that it gives you a glimpse of what is going on in North Korea. See it and learn.

By the way, the reason I didn't score this one a bit higher is that I do think that perhaps TOO MUCH of the parading was shown. It became tiresome to watch the girls practicing again and again and again and again for months. However, even this was interesting in a way--imagine how this was for these thousands and thousands of kids who did this! Wow....

*Another documentary filmed in North Korea by Western filmmakers was National Geographic's "Inside North Korea"--about a group of doctors who came to the country to perform free eye surgery for many blind North Koreans. It is fascinating--perhaps more so than "A State of Mind" as the now sighted folks did not thank their doctors when their bandages were removed but immediately ran to a poster of their leader, Kim Il Sung and began crying hysterically--thanking HIM for the restoration of their sight.

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