Experiencing North Korean “method acting” in the most visceral way.



An ingenious method of penetrating the most isolated country in the world allows an Australian filmmaker access to what proves to be a surprisingly sympathetic North Korean soul.

In 2012, Sydney-based Broinowski was invited to make a short film with Kim Jong II’s top filmmakers by wildly convoluted means. She came upon a book that the North Korean dictator (who died in 2011) had written about cinema and directing and learned how this son of Kim Il Sung had revolutionized the country’s film industry by shifting the propaganda focus “from dry, Soviet-style epics extolling the virtues of communism to full-blown celebrations of the heavenly supremacy” of his father. Kim managed to do this by kidnapping the famous South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok and his movie star wife, Choi Eun-hee, in the late 1970s and turning out such classics as Pulgasari. The author was faced with a David-and-Goliath theme, much extolled by Kim, in her own backyard, as it were, in trying to save the neighborhood Sydney Park from coal seam gas drilling by the dark-sounding company Dart Energy. By harnessing the filmmaking ideas of Kim to the “ideologically pure” theme of saving the children’s playground from the capitalists, she hit on a perfect way of winning over the North Koreans. Her way of entree, however, takes up half the book, including time and numerous handlers and lots of cash, while the severely censored tours in Pyongyang are fairly well-documented elsewhere. What is startling in this book is Broinowski’s exploration inside the massively powerful propaganda factory of the Pyongyang Film Studio, where the author met the famous, now aging actors, composers, and cineastes of Kim’s reign—e.g., the exacting director Mr. Pak (the “North Korean Scorsese—known for searing political thrillers”), who became her mentor.

Experiencing North Korean “method acting” in the most visceral way.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62872-676-3

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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