15 July 2017



Extraordinary…The strangest North Korean tale yet” The Guardian
Humorous, disturbing, illuminating and sometimes moving” Mojo
Funny, thoughtful, knowingly absurd” Variety

'If you don't like our music, then turn around three-hundred-and-sixty degrees and go...'

This is one of the weirdest, but at the same time most interesting, films I've ever been asked to do a review of. You know North Korea? Of course you know North Korea, haha. It's that country ruled by the podgy little dictator fella with the dodgy haircut whom everyone's always taking the piss out of, but one day when he pushes that little button (maybe to piss off the blondey/orangey-haired fella across the waters) and blows us all to Kingdom Come we'll all be laughing on the other side of our faces, that's if we can find them...?

Yeah, it's that North Korea. No offence intended to the podgy little dictator fella, or indeed to the blondey/orangey-haired fella across the waters. I'm sure they're both absolutely lovely chaps when you meet them in person. (Oh, and please don't have me killed, Dear Leader...!)

Anyway, you know the way that North Korea isn't exactly known for its love of Western culture and all things Western in general? Well, in August of 2015, the tightly-buttoned-up country of North Korea did something rather strange and out of character.

They had a celebration coming up, a sort of titular Liberation Day. To be exact, it's seventy whole years of freedom from Japanese rule that they were celebrating, and to mark it they decided to invite a Western rock band to play in their country, their closed-off and mystery-shrouded country.

It wasn't Pink Floyd or Fleetwood Mac or Taylor Swift or even Ireland's own U2 that were chosen. Thank God it wasn't U2. Can you imagine it? Bono would have been insufferable afterwards. More so, I mean, haha.

It was Slovenian avant-garde art-rock industrial outfit Laibach that was chosen, so there. I'd never heard of them prior to this fascinating documentary, but I've certainly picked up a few little snippets since.

They're probably most famous, or maybe I should say infamous, for flirting with Fascist/neo-Nazi imagery, but when they're asked about this they rather glibly reply: 'We are Fascists as much as Hitler was a painter.' Hmmm.

Well, that's interesting, because Hitler actually was a painter when he was a young fella. In fact, he once eked out a living selling drawings/paintings he did of city-scapes to tourists or anyone who was willing to pay for them. How differently history might read now if he'd only stuck to it...!

This was back before he got into the old Hitler-ing full-time, of course, and there are some folks who say that his drawings weren't very good. But he was in fact a painter at one point, so I don't know where exactly that leaves us with regards to Laibach's rather ambiguous Hitler comment.

Are they saying that they really, really want to be Fascists but they're just not very good at it, because that's how Hitler apparently felt about his painting? I think it's obvious they're implying that they're not Fascists at all, just like Hitler was never really a painter, but it's as well to know that there's more than one possible interpretation of their words.

At the time of the North Korean concert, there were five members of the band: Milan Fras on vocals (he's the sexy one who wears his Mammy's tea-towel wrapped around his head); the stunningly beautiful First Lady of Laibach, Mina Spiler, on vocals and synthesiser; Ivan Novak on lights; Janez Gabric on drums; and finally, Luka Jamnik and Rok Lopatic, both on synthesiser.

They're a seriously sexy, good-looking bunch, just like you might expect from an Eastern European group. The people there are all gorgeous. Not like us Irish. We don't have that intense cheekbone-y thing going on that the Eastern Europeans do.

It's a good thing that the Polish, Russian, Lithuanian and Romanian women who come over to Ireland to work seem to prefer to date guys from their own countries, or we Irish chicks wouldn't have two fellas left to rub together. True story, that. They're much better-looking than us.

I actually loved the bits of Laibach's music that were shown in the documentary. They do a terrifyingly loud and growly version of the OPUS song, LIFE IS LIFE, but they're famous for their cover versions also, songs like THE FINAL COUNTDOWN and EDELWEISS. I love that Euro-pop-rock sound.

They do fabulous covers of the songs from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, believe it or not, and that's what they'll be performing for the lucky North Koreans at the concert, along with their own version of a much-loved North Korean folk song, WE WILL GO TO MOUNT PAEKTU, which no doubt the natives will be delighted to hear.

They'll be expecting to hear it performed reverently and respectfully, though, not in a piss-taking kind of way, so Laibach had better get it right. You don't want to antagonise the locals. 'Visitors can't roam around freely intoxicating people,' after all...

Norwegian film-director and long-time fan of Laibach, Morten Traavik, who's actually kinda cute himself, has created a brilliant behind-the-scenes documentary for fans of music and history alike.

We see the band painstakingly preparing for their landmark North Korean concert while having to deal with constant criticism and censorship issues from the locals assigned to liaise with them. I'm sure there were times when Laibach felt unwelcome and wondered why they'd been invited there in the first place, especially as some people don't really seem to want them there.

This is the band (formed in Yugoslavia in 1980, the year Tito died) who infamously used military smoke-bombs instead of dry ice during their early concerts, while dressed in military uniforms and using the iconography of swastika-resembling black crosses.

Laibach itself is the German name for a city that was part of Slovenia when Slovenia formed part of the old Habsburg Empire. The name conjures up images of old Kaiser Billy in his pointy helmet-hat with his big twirly moustaches and a wine-coloured complexion consistent with good living and apoplexy, haha.

The band's first ever frontman, Tomas Hostnik, committed suicide back in the band's early days by hanging himself from one of Slovenia's most powerful national symbols, the kozolec. Laibach's name has been mired in controversy, steeped in history and intermingled with politics and nationalism from its outset. Their music is terrific, though, and this documentary is a real eye-opener.

The film is available on iTunes from Monday, 17th July, 2017, courtesy of DOGWOOF.


About Dogwoof: Dogwoof is the UK’s leading documentary film distributor and sales agent. Founded in 2004, notable Dogwoof successes include The Age of Stupid, Restrepo,
Undefeated, Blackfish, The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence and Cartel Land. 2017 titles include Whitney 'Can I Be Me' by Nick Broomfield, City of Ghosts by Matthew Heineman and SXSW winner The Work. The company recently launched its first film investment fund, focusing on the development & production of feature docs, remake rights and series, gearing up the company towards vertical integration. www.dogwoof.com

The hills are alive... with the sound of Laibach...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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