BERLIN – Sold by Paris-based Memento Films Intl., Alvaro Longoria’s “The Propaganda Game” has closed a clutch of major markets, joining the select numbers of movies which, though not major independent Hollywood fare with a A-list star attached, have still broken out to sales at this week’s Berlinale European Film Market.
Given the “huge shift on arthouse/indie movies, to sell finished movies, not pre-sell,” as Constantin’s Martin Moszkowicz observed at this year’s Berlin Festival, that is a notable achievement for a film still in post, and a docu-feature at that.
Kick-starting a first round of pre-sales, “The Propaganda Game” has closed Germany (Polyband), the U.K. (Metrodome) and Australia (eOne), as well as Switzerland (Praesens Film), Taiwan (Encore Film), ex-Yugoslavia (MCF Megacom) and Bulgaria (BNT). Spanish theatrical distribution and TV sales are under negotiation, Longoria said.
UTA and MFI co-represent North American rights to “The Propaganda Game.”
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Displaying the same sympathy for victims of a geo-political face-off which informed his Goya-winning debut, the Javier Bardem-produced “Sons of the Clouds: The Last Colony” – and drawing on his experience as the producer at Spain’s Morena Films of Oliver Stone’s “Comandante” and “Looking For Fidel,” a Fidel Castro docu diptych, and as exec producer on Stone’s “Persona Non Grata,” “The Propaganda Game” has Longoria penetrating the world’s last iron curtain.
In North Korea, he gains privileged access to the official pageants and daily lives of citizens in North Korea – “too good to be true,” Longoria commented – gained via a key facilitator, Spaniard Alejandro Cao de Benos, the only foreigner working for the North Korean government, He is allowed to shoot whatever he wants – though he has to follow a carefully prescribed route around the country.
“The Propaganda” does not take all Western reports about North Korea at their face value. One example: The claims made by Britain’s Daily Mail’s and NBC News (which should have known better) that ruler Kim Jong-un’s uncle was executed by being eaten alive by 120 hungry dogs. The report was a mistaken rehash of a spoof satirical news item by a Chinese blogger. Another example: That an uber- icon of Western capitalism, The Coca Cola Company, is banned from North Korea (see picture to debunk that myth).
Longoria intersperses docu footage with interviews where true specialists on North Korea –Barbara Demick, former Seoul Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times, or Andrei Lankov, author of “The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia” – provide far more tempered analysis.
“Once we managed to get access into North Korea, we tried to dig deeper and get beyond the grotesque and the clichés and analyze who are the winners and the losers of this propaganda war that surrounds The Hermit Kingdom,” Longoria told Variety.
He added: “Our goal is not to discover the absolute truth about North Korea, but to make the audience see a reality full of half-truths and many lies, allowing them to reach their own conclusion: We are all victims of propaganda.”