Movie review of “Under the Sun”: North Korea is listed as among the producers of this documentary by Russian director Vitaly Mansky, who focuses on a little girl in Pyongyang. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

Share story

Often regarded as the most conservative of countries, Saudi Arabia recently broke with tradition and made a PG-rated contemporary movie (“Wadjda”) about teenage rebellion in Riyadh.

Could North Korea be next?

The production credits for a new documentary, “Under the Sun,” include North Korea as well as Russia, Germany, Latvia and the Czech Republic. It’s the work of a veteran Russian director, Vitaly Mansky, who was given relatively free rein to follow an 8-year-old girl, Zin-Mi, as she joins the North Korean Union for Children.

Movie Review ★★½  

‘Under the Sun,’ a documentary written and directed by Vitaly Mansky. 106 minutes. Not rated; suitable for general audiences. In Korean, with English subtitles. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.

Unlike the straightforward narrative of “Wadjda,” it’s a movie self-consciously framed around its own making: specifically the creation of a Korean propaganda spectacle. Mansky uses the limitations imposed on him by the government to create a kind of commentary on the genre.

He shot the agreed-upon script but included plenty of extra footage, including close-ups. This allowed him to create his own vision of life in Pyongyang; it doesn’t always coincide with the official version.

In the end, it’s all about that little girl and how she responds to the lavish song-and-dance epic designed to praise Korea’s leader, the late Kim Jong-II. “Under the Sun” may seem slow and hollow at times, but her emotions appear to be quite spontaneous.