Slovenian rock band Laibach is more notorious for their flirtations with fascist symbolism and rhetoric than for their great covers of ’80s hits like Life is Life and The Final Countdown. But is their act not a mockery of totalitarian regimes? The fact that they were the first Western band in the world to be asked to perform in North Korea is ironic, to put it mildly. Is this a match made in heaven, or is it asking for trouble?
Laibach is the first band ever to be allowed to perform in ‘reclusive state’ North Korea. They have been invited to give a concert as part of the Liberation Day celebrations. It is a weird combination: originally a Slovenian cult band, they became notorious for their flirtations with fascist symbolism and rhetoric. The fact that the band mainly used these elements as mockery was not clear to everyone, which is why the media has often wrongly vilified them and decried them as Nazi sympathisers.
That this band, of all bands, was picked to play in North Korea is truly the epitome of irony. Or does it all make sense? Under the inspirational leadership of film director, artist and huge Laibach fan Morten Traavik, the band undertakes a journey to the most closed-off country in the world. ‘Just like your country, Laibach is often misunderstood.’ With that statement, Traavik tries to bridge the cultural gap between the band members and the North Korean delegates who have been charged with guiding the group.
The film follows the difficult preparations towards the run-up to the performance. Besides the many technical difficulties and huge cultural differences, there is the ever-watchful eye of the censors who constantly want to tinker with the lyrics and visual projections, to the aggravation of the band and crew. Meanwhile, the tensions at the border with South Korea rise.
Text: Annika Wubbolt