Documentaries are a great way to share information with a large audience. However, they often persist the personal biases of their creators, which can leave malignant impressions on naive viewers. I highly recommend you read Andray’s Abrahamian’s paper “North Korea and Documentary Film” which analyzes some of these discrepancies, particularly for several of these films below.
Kimjongilia – Flowers for Kim Jong-Il
(2010) – Probably the most recent documentary (please correct me if I’m wrong), showcasing the hardships of North Koreans and the risks and downsides to defection via China. Beautifully shot. Watch in high-def if you can.
Nuclear Nightmare – Understanding North Korea
(2009) – This Discovery Channel documentary is more up-to-date on issues and provides a nice summary of the nuclear situation in North Korea, how it started, how it ended up this way, and the unanswered question of where to go from here.
The Vice Guide to North Korea
(2008) – VBS.TV takes the Arirang tourist tour and gets in a bit of trouble for filming at the wrong times. A great watch to witness what the typical American tourist trip to NK is like.
National Geographic – Inside Undercover in North Korea
(2007) – Reporter Lisa Ling (sister of journalist Laura Ling who was captured with producer Euna Lee in NK last year and then released back to the US) follows a humanitarian effort to restore the site of many North Koreans in Pyongyang suffering from cataracts. A fascinating documentary!
Crossing the Line – Deserting to North Korea
(2006) – Trailer only. Narrated by Christian Slater, this (slightly overproduced) documentary analyzes the life of US soldier/defector James Dresnok, who crossed the DMZ during the Korean War and was later integrated into North Korean society.
Friends of Kim
(2006) – Members of the Korean Friendship Association in Europe travel to the DPRK to participate in propaganda parades. Some of the members are more skeptical of the regime then organization leader Alejandro Cao de Benos, who swears fealty to the Dear Leader and the North Korean way of life.
North Korea – A State of Mind
(2004) – An interesting British documentary following two young girls from Pyongyang who live and work to perform for the Arirang Mass Games.
Welcome to North Korea
(2001) – A little dated, but still a nice introduction to North Korea and how it got to this point.
Children of the Secret State
(2000) – An eye-opening documentary detailing a man who routinely crosses the NK border and secretly films the shocking and rampant food shortages in some of the provinces. Dated, but the impact remains.
North Korean Movies
Pulgasari (1985) – Watch in full – This movie is awesome. A Godzilla-like monster flick from North Korea with a history more fantastic than the movies. Read about how Kim Jong-Il ordered Shin Sang-ok and his wife to be kidnapped to Pyongyang in order to create movies such as this one for the Dear Leader.
The Flower Girl (1972)
Hong Kil Dong (1986)
The Girls in My Hometown (1991)
Urban Girl Goes to Get Married (1993)
Four Seasons of Pyongyang
Tale of Chunghyang