North Korea may be the most talked and the lesser known country of the planet. (it may compete with Israel for these titles but for very different reasons) It’s a closed and supervised nation which is practically disconnected from the rest of the world, and who let itself be filmed very seldom, by few people and in a well filtered manner. ‘Laibach’ is an anarchist band of metal rock from Slovenia, which had its peak moment of glory more than three decades ago when it brought its contribution to the fall of the Iron Curtain and of the Communism system and dismantling of the country that was known for much of the 20th century as Yugoslavia. The two came together in the summer of 2015 in an incredible event which can be of huge importance or can be just a footnote in history. The first concert of a Western (or at least European) rock band in North Korea. Until history decides about the importance of the event, we have this documentary film named Liberation Day which I have seen in the last screening of the DocAviv International Documentary Film Festival in Tel Aviv.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5847760

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5847760

 

Watching this film is a multi-layered experience. We see a door semi-open, or a crack in a wall of mis-communication or lack of communication – I think these words or some similar are being used in the film – to a closed world. But we also know that not all could be filmed, and not everything was shown to the guests. While the members of the band and the team that came with them seem to buy into much of what is being served to them, there is a lot that is not being said that needs to be taken into consideration. After all, the members of the Laibach band not only came originally from a similar political system, maybe not that extreme, but based on the same principles, but also fought against it, and contributed – with their music and public attitude – to their fall. So the question can be asked – why did they accept the censorship and the rules of engagement defined by their hosts? Were they manipulated? The answer is not simple and the ambiguous quote that opens the film describes their approach – any form of art (in their opinion) has its component of propaganda and manipulation.

(Yes, indeed, but dosing differs.)

 

(video source Dogwoof)

 

Some of the images in the film are memorable. The beginning brings together crowds on stadiums gathered for rock concerts (in the West) or for big propaganda shows (in North Korea) and suggests a parallel. The huge statues of the Korean rulers and the ceremonies of bringing flowers and bowing to the monuments are impressive, even if one may disagree with the message that is being conveyed. Some of the situations shown on screen – censorship, controlled performances with selected audiences – are familiar for somebody who lived under the Communist system.  Other look simply surrealistic. The music of Laibach and the deep voice of the soloist remember us again on the background that what is important is the art and that its message needs not be explicit. A rock band concert in North Korea is an event. This film is an event. Viewers need to take this film as an open exercise and do their own reading.