Laibach's North Korea film hitting the big screen

Ljubljana, 16 March - A film chronicling a legendary North Korea concert by Slovenian band Laibach in 2015 will premiere at the Festival of Documentary Film on Saturday. The directors of Liberation Day, Ugis Olte and Morten Traavik, say the depiction is "truthful".

Ivan Novak, one of the founding members of Laibach.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Morten Traavik, the director of Liberation Day, a film about Laibach's 2015 concert in Pyongyang.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

The poster for Liberation Day, a documentary on Laibach's 2015 concert in North Korea.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Laibach gave a concert in Pyongyang in August 2015 as the first ever western band to perform in the reclusive Communist country on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of liberation from Japanese rule.

Traavik, who had had experience travelling in North Korea, organised the concert and also decided to shoot a documentary about it. He told the press in Ljubljana on Thursday he was given absolutely free reign.

The organiser-director said he had spent a year convincing the North Korean authorities to let Laibach perform. He finally gained their trust and convinced them with the statement that Laibach is misunderstood by Western media, just like North Korea.

The film provides insight into the band's North Korea stay and reveals how much effort went into it, the censors' demands, and the band being forced to significantly pare back their original performance.

It shows Ivan Novak, Laibach's founding member, walking around Pyongyang alone and saying afterwards that what he witnessed was utopia that works in principle, while he thought the people appeared happy.

Traavik said the world uncritically believed anti-Korean propaganda rather than accepting life in the country as it is. He said the key to understanding it was to reflect on the system and the way of life.

Ivan Novak, Laibach's founding member, said their Pyongyang performance was subject to "aesthetic rather than ideological censorship", as the band were not allowed to violate North Korea's aesthetic paradigm.

Asked whether as director he adapted the film to North Korean tastes in order not to violate their trust, Traavik said it was clear to him he was working with people who could suffer consequences if unpleasant scenes were to appear in the film.

However, nothing was left out of the film just to prevent offence. "I can say with clear conscience that this is a truthful film that shows what actually happened there."

Liberation Day will go on general release in Slovenia on 23 March.

© STA, 2017