Cinema from the most shut-off country in the world at Five Flavours!
The 10th edition of the festival will be a unique opportunity to see the key productions from North Korea, the most enigmatic Asian cinematography. The films presented are virtually never shown abroad. The screenings at Five Flavours are the only chance to see these fascinating films on a big screen!
There are no official statistics regarding the North Korean film industry. We know that films have been made there since 1949 and they have always been closely regulated by the authorities, for whom the Tenth Muse became a tool for creating a vision of land of splendor and happiness, and for conveying Juche ideology.
The most famous story related to North Korean cinema is the kidnapping of director Shin Sang-ok and his ex-wife, actress Choi Eun-hee, from Hong Kong in 1978. Shin, a star director in South Korea in the 50s and 60s, was supposed to create a full-blown film industry for Kim Jong-il. The film-loving leader provided the couple with comfortable work environment and an intensive indoctrination program. His plan failed - the filmmakers escaped in 1986, during a film festival in Vienna. Before that, however, Shin directed seven pictures, including the 1985 "Pulgasari," a response to Japanese Godzilla films.
Order no 27, dir. Jung Ki-mo, Kim Eung-suk
Even though Shin's time in Pyongyang ended in the leader's failure, it had a huge influence on the cinematography of the country. The director showed other filmmakers the enormous potential of the cinema. After 1986, films became lighter, more spectacular, they gained humor and elements of fantasy. Some were also partially shot abroad. In the 1980s, North Korean films were screened in various People's Democracies, and came to be quite popular. The fall of USSR brought serious financial problems to the country. It also reflected on its cinematography, which has since been operating on fairly irregular basis.
Every two years, Pyongyang hosts an international film festival. This year marked its 15th edition.
NORTH KOREAN CINEMA AT FIVE FLAVOURS
The selection of North Korean cinema at Five Flavours, two films from the crucial year 1986 and two contemporary ones, is an opportunity to see the country's most prominent productions. They show how universal the language of cinema is and what moving stories it can produce, even if they are made in such a different reality. It is also a starting point for the debate on the role of cinema in the historical politics of the country.
Nicholas Bonner, a long-time Pyongyang resident and co-director of "Comrade Kim Goes Flying," will be the guest of Five Flavours.
Comrade Kim goes flying, dir. Kim Gwang Hun, Nicholas Bonner, Anja Daelemans
Comrade Kim Goes Flying, dir. kim gwang hun, nicholas bonner, anja daelemans (north korea, belgium, uk 2012)
Comrade Kim Yong Mi is an energetic miner with a wide smile, well-liked by her co-workers and the people of her provincial hometown. Her secret passion is rhythmic gymnastics – as a child, she dreamed of being an acrobat, and now the evolutions are her favorite pastime. But when her excellent work record allows her to get a job at a construction site in Pyongyang, where auditions for a prestigious circus acrobat group are held, her heart lights up in a spark of hope.
"Comrade Kim Goes Flying" is a captivating emancipation story about the power of dreams and the determination to fight for them despite all obstacles. The film, made in a slightly sugary convention, but filled with irresistibly honest emotions, is unique for may reasons – it was made in North Korea with local actors and crew, but the post-production took place in Belgium and China.
Small House on Forefront (north korea 2013)
Ryom Min is a devoted doctor from a military unit, caring for the soldiers of the revolutionary army. His helper, Thae Ung, has just graduated from university and is very impressed with his mentor's responsibility and his almost parental attitude towards the recruits. Apart from the medical skills, he also has a big heart, a sense of mission, and high ethical standards – he always puts the lives of his patients before his own.
The film is a flagship example of contemporary North Korean cinematography and the topics of interest to the local media.
Small House on Forefront
ORDER NO 27 (DIR. JUNG KI-MO, KIM EUNG-SUK, NORTH KOREA 1986)
A North Korean "Dirty Dozen," an epic story of an elite soldier squad on an extremely dangerous mission during the Korean War. Their task is to penetrate hostile territory and blow up the enemy's headquarters. Not all of them will survive, but the motherland always comes first.
"Order No 27" is a spectacular, dynamic film which gained quite a popularity in the cinemas of North Korea and the Eastern Bloc. Its action scenes choreography is impressive, with the protagonists using their guns as eagerly as their Taekwondo skills. These are not fake combat scenes – the soldiers are played by martial arts students and task force members. Legend has it, many of them left the set with broken limbs.
A film about sacrifice, faithfulness to the motherland, and a true male friendship, filled with action and moving army ballads.
Order No 27, dir. Jung Ki-mo, Kim Eung-suk
HONG KIL-DONG (DIR. KIM KIL-IN, NORTH KOREA 1986)
The title hero is a legendary character - a Korean Robin Hood, whose literary prototype appeared at the turn of the 16th century. Some even claim the story was based on true events. The bastard son of a nobleman and a low-born concubine used his unusual intelligence and superhuman powers to fight aristocracy with a group of other social outcasts. The tale, one of the founding stories for national identities of both Koreas, had a number of adaptations in literature, film, television and comic books.
Kim Kil-in wraps the popular saga in the convention of martial arts cinema, with all its spectacular sword fights, Kung fu sequences, and a touch of lyricism. Despite fighting the injustice and protecting the little people, the hero has to face his nemesis – a Japanese ninja. The combination of elaborate choreography, brilliant costumes, dynamic script, and an ethical message, turned "Hong Kil-dong" into the most important film in the history of North Korea. It was also a huge success in... Bulgaria, where tickets were sold out days before screenings.
Hong Kil-dong, dir. Kim Kil-in