‘A State of Mind’ is a BBC documentary on Netflix. You might not be attracted to it by its cover, which is two young Korean gymnasts.

It is about them, of course, and how their government and training affects their lives. The documentary is really about what it is like to live in North Korea.

School is nearly 100% propaganda. Children are taught to revere and worship their leaders, sort of like an always present God.

English is taught as the North Koreans hate the United States and it is felt that by knowing their language, it gives them an advantage.

But all is not doom and gloom. Sure, they only have one TV station, run by the government. All day long, propaganda, speeches and ‘news’. Once a day, there is a cartoon. Mostly about being in the army and fighting the enemy. And gymnastics.

You have never seen such fabulous gymnastics in your life. These children grew up with at least two hours of gymnastics a day, after school.

For those fortunate enough to be selected to be in the Mass Games, the training is much more intense. Practice every day is in a large open air area outside. The ground is concrete and the temperatures can drop in the winter to zero.

What these girls do is amazing. Visualize 500 girls all in total unison, bouncing a small ball, catching it and then while still holding it aloft, doing a cartwheel. Times that by 100, and you have their routine.

When you realize they are doing these routines on concrete for hours, it is amazing that they aren’t limping.

On the first day of the Games, which actually goes for several weeks, the big brass leaders attend. It is a huge honor and no person wants to make a mistake and bring shame on her team. Gymnasts from all over the country join together to create perfect events. Each team may have 400 or more members, and as they are all doing the exact same thing, ten teams might perform the same routine.

There are literally thousands of boys and girls, all doing the same synchronized gymnastic routines. This is amazingly done in patterns and waves and there is never one single error.

There are teams of a dozen or so male gymnasts who do synchronized floor exercises and vaults in total unison. It would be like a dozen groups of cheerleaders all doing the exact same routine, throws, and catches in the same exact way and at the same exact time.

Or picture the Olympic gymnastic events, vaulting and the bars being done in unison by ten or twelve gymnasts, all in perfection.

In the stands, there is a mural of events. This is created by 12,000 school children with colored sheets that they change every second, so it appears to be a digital billboard. The discipline that is shown is remarkable. Horses running, Pictures of the leaders waving. And on and on. It looks like a seamless movie.

Then we have the Army. Oh, my God. Their marching is so exactly ‘in step’. The exact tilt of their heads is identical. And there are thousands of them. Scary. Reminds me of Nazi Germany, the way they march. Sort of a goose step.

The documentary also shows their ‘homes’, which are assigned by the state. Food is rationed and for fun they go to a parade or picnic that somehow has to do with the government.

When the documentary was made, about ten years ago, the current ration of food was one chicken and five eggs per month per person. The people are so indoctrinated, that they are very compliant.

Check it out sometime when  you want to learn about another culture and also see some great gymnastics.

Advertisements