In Singapore, between a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a scheduled press conference, the U.S. presented a video portraying the event as an opportunity for two countries to move toward peace. It ran like a movie trailer, and the North Korean summit video even featured actor Sylvester Stallone, potentially for a reason.
The cameo is made by way of a photo, depicting Stallone smiling beside Trump in the Oval Office. The picture was taken at the posthumous pardoning of Jack Johnson, a boxing legend. Stallone had lobbied for Johnson's cause.
But according to Time, there's more to the story. The photo wasn't selected merely because it showed a moment of forgiveness, but because Kim Jong Un is reportedly a big fan of the Rocky movies. Stallone, as a refresher, played the movie's main character, Rocky Balboa, in the franchise.
According to former NBA player Dennis Rodman, another Western figure Kim demonstrably admires, the leader's affinity for the boxing movies is not a new revelation. Kim reportedly had his Rocky fandom on full display during one of Rodman's visits.
"He has this 13-piece girls band with violins," Rodman said during a 2017 after his trip. "He gets a mic and they play the whole time. He loves the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Oldies. When I first went, the live band only played two songs for four hours: the theme songs from Rocky and Dallas."
On Tuesday, reporters were waiting for Trump to emerge from his meeting with Kim when the film in question began playing from two large screens. According to The Washington Post, some reporters initially believed the video was North Korean propaganda. This was bolstered by the fact that it was played twice: first with Korean narration, and then again, in English.
According to The Telegraph, Kim's appreciation for Rocky is no national secret. Back in 2012, North Korean state television reportedly ran footage of Kim at a concert where the Rocky theme song was played. According to the newspaper, it also featured a montage of the main character boxing against his rival.
Multiple news outlets report that Trump encouraged Kim and other North Korean leaders to watch the summit film while in Singapore. The Huffington Post reports that they did so while huddled around an iPad.
"I think he loved it," Trump reportedly said of Kim.
The video itself featured montages of both North Korea and the United States, as well as footage of both Trump and Kim. It seemed to suggest that North Korea would be more prosperous if only it would eradicate its nuclear weapons program. This was underscore by footage of missiles being shot, and then rewound.
Overall, it painted the summit like a feature film. "History is always evolving, and there comes a time when only a few are called upon to make a difference," the video's narrator says. "But the question is — what difference will the few make?"
At times, it referred indirectly to Kim. "Will this leader choose to advance his country and be part of a new world?" they voice overlay asks. "Be the hero of his people?"
When the summit ended, Trump and Kim announced that they had signed a new agreement. Skeptics argued that it lacked specificity. Others criticized what they perceived to be the Trump Administration's willingness to ignore the fact that North Korea was accused by the U.N. of crimes against humanity.
A 2014 report from the international body said that North Korea committed crimes which "entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation."
Human rights groups had hoped that Trump would use the summit as an opportunity to directly discuss these reports. However, after meeting Kim, Trump described him as someone who "loves his people." Trump's comments, combined with the video, seemed to indicate that crimes against humanity were not exactly aligned with the meeting's tone.