» » Дневник школьницы (2007)

Short summary

A student experiences different conflicts as she works toward being a scientist.

After it showing at the Pyongyang Film Festival, a French company bought the rights making it the first North Korean film to secure a distribution deal in over a decade.

North Korea banned this film (along with 9 others) in 2016.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Heraly
    For a nation with such hatred towards "Imperialist America", the opening shot of A Schoolgirl's Diary is particularly vivid. You see a young girl walking away from school with a Mickey Mouse backpack. This decision confused me, so reply if you have any idea what the meaning of it is. Now, to unemotionally explain the premise, the story is of a girl called Soo- Ryun who is ashamed of her father because he hasn't obtained a doctorate, but she is unaware of the hard work he does. An obsession with qualifications and being the best is very prominent, which is seen in Soo-OK - Soo-Ryun's sister - whose aim is to join the women's national football team. She is so keen on this that whenever she is on screen, we are made to think about football, for example when she's in bed doing headers with a balloon.

    In a similar-but-not-really way to Vertigo, you get a constant repetition of certain colours in shots. In Vertigo it is rather vividly red and green, and it's infuriating the first time you watch it. With The Schoolgirl's Diary it is the colours of the North Korean flag: Red, white and slightly dark blue. Looking at the frequency at which you see these colours together in clothing and props, it is definitely no coincidence. This brings me to something it has in common with The Flower Girl (1972, also DPRK): it seems to be constructing an audience of people who have never or almost never seen a movie before. However, there is no point in introducing propaganda in subtle(ish) ways like colour palette or elisions to the Juche Idea, as the expected belief of North Korean citizens is mentioned explicitly, through joyous songs about the 'Dear General'. Other more subtle ideology includes representing the leader as a father figure and as a protective umbrella, for accidental humour.

    There are a few things to learn from this film about the country's culture, though some of it seems unlikely. In particular I'm thinking of Soo-Ryun's desire to live in a small apartment rather than the lovely detached house they already live in. This seems an odd preference. Are the filmmakers just trying tell their audience that this is what they should like? It was great to hear some references that cross borders. The football lover Soo-OK is described by her uncle as a "female Pele". Esope's Fables is also quoted. A hilarious representation that any culture will recognise is the representation of Soo-Ryun the stock character, 'moody teenager' alongside the school's bitch. Both are hilarious versions of this very familiar representation. Said bitch's malice is directed at Soo-Ryun because of the whole doctorate thing. Something that surprised me was, out of nowhere, Soo-Ryun slapping Soo-OK for being rude to their mother. Perhaps this is more culturally normal, like it is in Bollywood. An unusual view of science is taken and I'm not sure if this reflects how people really feel or if it is just being pushed in this film. The dad thinks that the purpose of science should be to improve a nation and improve its people's lives, therefore there are some areas of science are pointless. No interest in the pursuit of knowledge is given. One more cultural thing I must know more about: what is this fixation North Korea has with piano accordions?

    I noticed a few technical flaws that really spoil the smoothness of certain scenes. As it has a fairly classical, traditional score, it would benefit from 'sneaking'** some of the music in, rather than having a violin obtrusively enter a pivotal conversation. The music that BLARES out after the line "Mum has cancer" is also quite irritating. In places the voices have very obviously been recorded in a studio and seem detached from the actor. Often the juxtaposition of shots just doesn't work. The scene where the plug socket bursts into flames is a good example and has that low-angle shot that doesn't fit in anywhere. A broader point covering the whole narrative is that there is not a good sense of changing pace or intensity. It's difficult to know how this could be improved but the nature of the story makes narrative excitement pretty difficult. There is some attempt at narrative cohesion, with a good but unmemorable main theme that plays clearly in the opening scene and at the end to make their ugly apartment block look more aspirational. There is clever non-linear, circular bit of narrative involving a paper aeroplane. In any case, The Flower Girl is a much more polished and professional film.

    There are some real gems of quotes in A Schoolgirl's Diary, some of which are amusing and some which are angering. It can be said of many countries that there is only an illusion of choice, summed up in this quote: "A bird can fly because it has wings. A train can move forward because it has rails." It is great to see some real humour, through banter and slapstick, and a football match between scientists and factory workers. Soo-OK joins in and scores of course. The line to end all lines though, is upon erecting a chimney: "Long live thermodynamics!"
  • comment
    • Author: SkroN
    This film is pointless for anyone besides those interested in studying North Korean propaganda. It is devoid of all merit and worth apart from emphasizing loyalty to the North Korean state in general and Kim Jong-il in particular.

    The plot is basically that a young girl hates her father because she thinks that he has abandoned his family and traditional fatherly duties in the service of the state. Finally, through events depicted in the film she comes to realize that dedication to the state is a virtue, and she cannot wait until she gets an opportunity to dedicate herself to the state in pursuit of glory for the Glorious North Korean People.

    The 'climax' of the film, if it is deserving of that term, is when Su-ryeon visits her dad's factory only to see him in a mechanic's uniform (remember Kim Jong-Il's fashion sense), apparently taking orders from a junior, female scientist. Her world is shattered, but it soon turns out that her father is such a genius that he not only develops bold new theories, but also constantly engages himself with the 'lower' workers through on-site inspections and guidance. And he's good at soccer! Everyone at the factory loves him.. they are like his second family! Su-ryeon loathes herself because she has been so selfish in wanting her father all to herself, when clearly many people rely on him! He's not bad for leaving his family alone to cope with their everyday 'annoyances' - she is bad for not understanding his world. This man is so selfless he doesn't even care for his cancer riddled wife lying in a state hospital; he is way too busy developing a computerized control system for his factory in order to give the workers more free time.

    What an utterly revolting, filthy piece of Paternal-Fascist propaganda. It is clear that the girl represents the average North Korean (too naive and innocent to understand the 'real world') that may be upset with the Kim regime's bumbling maladministration of that county. Of course, the absentee father is Kim Jong-il! He is tirelessly working for the advancement of all people, not just the Koreans, but the world! How dare these people trouble him with trifling problems like, I don't know, human rights, daily struggles, the desires for love and recognition, or even if they are suffering from a terminal disease? These peasants should be grateful for such a wonderful leader that everybody loves! Why, they should even aspire to be just like him!

    There is humor to be found, albeit unintentional, as one scene features shoddy electrical wiring resulting in a TV catching on fire. The grandmother living with the family puts it out with a bucket of water. Another scene shows a hastily constructed 'PC Lab' that is clearly a couple of computers placed on the table in a government boardroom. They are always shot from the back,and the sound effects played over them are clearly sounds from computers from the 1980's - they are not even turned on.

    In the final analysis, one should treat this movie as if it were Samsung stock on the eve of a North Korean rocket launch, in other words; don't touch it with a 100ft bargepole.

    PS. Clearly, the person who responded to my review is not familiar with the guiding principles of North Korean cinema as laid out by Kim Jong Il in the 1960's and 1970's, and crystalized in his 1978 book 'On the Art of the Cinema'. This ideology holds that to make a movie, it must aid and advance the tenets of the Juche (self reliance of North Koreans) policy, and devotion to the state. A movie cannot be released, approved or conceptualized in North Korea if it fails to meet this standard. In other words, movies are propaganda - the meta-story is what is important in North Korean films, and it is this thread that I take issue with; the French people who backed this movie for international release, and the other reviewers seem blissfully unaware of this cut and dry fact.
  • comment
    • Author: Ishnsius
    The film depicts a North Korean teenager's struggle to understand her father's devotion to his country, and to scientific achievement at the expense of his own family's happiness.

    Spending most of his time at work in a distant town, he leaves his two daughters, wife, and mother-in-law in their rural home.

    This girl biggest dream is to live in an apartment, and we frequently see her dreaming about escaping her reality, a hard life in the middle of a low income family.

    Not a great movie, but coming from North Korea it's not that bad actually.

    very good to understand a little more about the daily lives of North Koreans.
  • comment
    • Author: Thofyn
    The story is a coming-of-age story. A young girl -and her family- is struggling to lead a happy life at home while her father is mostly absent. She suffers by not knowing exactly what her father does. Her friends' fathers meanwhile are celebrated for their accomplishments. She envies her friends' pride. Eventually her father accomplishes the work he had set out to do and for which he had abandoned his family. She realizes that sometimes the achievement of something worthwhile is mostly a thankless job and that it is done not for the glory of it but for the benefit it will bring to society as a whole.

    In response to Mark's first statement: this film is... He believes this film to be solely a propaganda film, I say it is not so. It is a coming-of-age story that shows the struggles a young girl goes through while not knowing exactly why.

    statement: Of course, the absentee.... I believe the absentee father working arduously for the betterment of society as a whole whilst sacrificing his own family is an ideal the film hopes to inspire in people (propaganda-like but this is a flaw not limited to NK). (Kim Jong-Il travels 365 days a year according to the movie)

    statement: How dare these people trouble him with trifling... I answer that the struggles depicted are a means to an "ideal" end.

    statement: These peasants should be grateful... *Mark's rant*

    statement: There is humor to be found, albeit unintentional, as one scene features... This scene serves to demonstrate that work normally done by a father is not being done. There is also another scene with the chimney that serves the same purpose. Mark seems to think it is humorous, I disagree.

    statement: Another scene shows a hastily constructed 'PC Lab'... I don't understand what the deal is with this statement. If a prop is not needed for the advancement of the scene then it is not something one should dwell on while critiquing a movie.

    statement: In the final analysis, one should treat this movie as... had mark been more sensible and less hasty he could have written a better analysis but in most points I disagree with his assessment.
  • comment
    • Author: Virtual
    While some of the North Korean movies I've watched have turned out greater than the sum of their parts, THE SCHOOLGIRL'S DIARY turns out to be nothing more than a thinly-veiled propaganda piece in which the whole story is an allegory providing a moral lesson for the masses. The essential essence of the plot involves an unhappy schoolgirl, made sad by the continuing absence of her professor father whose lack of presence leads to many problems in the family home.

    You can guess from the outset that there's going to be a happy ending with this one and indeed the story plays out as completely predictably as you'd expect. The calibre of the film-making is very ordinary and hardly on par with genuinely beautiful North Korean movies like A BROAD BELLFLOWER, although the leading performances from the teenage actresses are pretty decent. There's some comedy in here, alongside some songs to lift the spirits, and as usual the film as a whole provides a valuable insight into life in North Korea.
  • Credited cast:
    Mi-hyang Pak Mi-hyang Pak - Su-ryeon
    Jin-mi Kim Jin-mi Kim - Su-ok, her elder sister
    Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
    Cheol Kim Cheol Kim - San-myeong, her father
    Jeong-mi Kim Jeong-mi Kim
    Myeong-woon Kim Myeong-woon Kim
    Yeong-suk Kim Yeong-suk Kim - Jeong Ran, her Mother
    Hak-myeong Shin Hak-myeong Shin
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