Music can be a force for change. It can also bring people together. Political leaders like the kudos, publicity and status support from bands can bring. Most recently, Jeremy Corbyn and Hilary Clinton have courted celebrities to back their campaigns. However, when the Slovenian avant-garde band Laibach were asked to perform in North Korea, where no other rock band has ever played, it was a surprise to say the least. Especially, given their reputation.
Liberation Day, Ugis Olte and Morten Traavikthe’s new documentary, follows the band as they arrive in Pyongyang. The group have a knack for controversy, even being accused of fascism in the press. This was largely due to some of their videos and promotional materials. Which, given the nature of the regime, makes them a bizarre choice. They’re best known for their subversive cover versions of popular songs; the Koreans appear to have a penchant for The Sound of Music.
Whilst the build-up to the gig is entertaining, especially with the pressure of time constraints, the language barriers and censorship, Liberation Day stands-out because of the way it approaches its subject. Unlike most documentaries about North Korea, the directors don’t just work on the pretext that the regime is wrong. Through Lailbach, we see a portrait of a country where, despite all the hardships, people seem genuinely happy.
Liberation Day is released on ITunes by Dogwoof on Monday 17 July.