Thanks to Eric Weingartner at Cankor we have advance notice of two new films on North Korea that showed at the Toronto film festival. We already commented on one: Comrade Kim Goes Flying. This film is of interest in part because it is a joint Belgium, UK & North Korea production, more evidence of the odd networks that are emerging between North Korea and the outside world. Weingartner reproduces the director’s statement on his page. We reproduce the producers’ statement below, and its hopeful tag-line.
We neglected to mention that addition to Toronto, the film has played at film festivals in Pusan, Taipei (upcoming)—and Pyonyang. That alone was enough to intrigue us; the Pyongyang International Film Festival, which took place in late September of this year, almost looks like—well, a film festival. The website is worth a look.
Camp 14: Total Control Zone was made by German filmmaker Marc Wiese and is based on Blaine Harden’s new book (reviewed by Marc Noland here). YouTube has the predictably chilling trailer; as always, it is hard to know whether the victims or the perpetrators are the more haunted.
Comrade Kim Goes Flying
BELGIUM – ANJA DAELEMANS
UK – NICHOLAS BONNER
NORTH KOREA – RYOM MI HWA
Comrade Kim Goes Flying is the result of a meeting of three producers with very different backgrounds, but a shared passion for film. Nick Bonner is an Englishman in Beijing with 20 years experience in cultural exchange with North Korea. He previously co-produced three documentaries that were about, and took place, in North Korea. Anja Daelemans is a two-time Oscar® nominated Belgian film producer who stumbled into things North Korean out of genuine curiosity. Ryom Mi Hwa, daughter of a famous North Korean cinematographer, is a film producer with a real love for films. Their meeting of the minds overcame all odds to produce this heartwarming story of a girl who conquers all adversity to fulfil her childhood dream.
This unique collaboration recreates a universal theme of individual self-fulfilment in a North Korean setting. The film tells the story of a young Korean woman who pursues her own dream and takes control of her own destiny. Coal miner Comrade Kim Yong Mi seeks to realise her childhood dream of flying by becoming a trapeze artist.
Unlike standard North Korean films, Comrade Kim Goes Flying avoids relying on a central male character or the active interference of the party/state system. Comrade Kim Yong Mi succeeds in winning over the circus bureaucracy and her nemesis, the circus strong man Pak Jang Phil (and his mother) by the strength of her talent, beauty, personality and cleverness.
Comrade Kim Goes Flying is the first fiction film with an entire all Korean cast, co-produced with Western partners and completely edited abroad. Our aim was to make a film that could be appreciated by a world audience but also provide something fresh and different for a North Korean public. It was our intention to make an entertaining ‘feel good’ film centreed on a strong female lead and to deliver a fun, light and romantic film with young good-looking actors that our informal research had revealed a North Korean audience wanted.
We challenged the North Korean writers to create a script with a strong heroine, a girl with an attitude, self-confident, individualistic and cheeky. The essence of ‘girl power’ drives this implausible story of a young coal miner who with the support of her friends achieves her dream to fly. With elements of mischief, humour and romance, this film required a new approach from the North Korean writers, cast and crew. At times during the writing process, when words failed to communicate the range of emotions we had in mind, we resorted to acting out whole scenes.
Although the cast is dotted with some of the most famous North Korean actors, the two main characters (Han Jong Sim as Comrade Kim Yong Mi and Pak Chung Guk as Pak Jang Phil) are professional circus acrobats who went through an intensive acting course for this film.
This is an international coproduction, with the North Korean side providing the script writers, cast, crew and orchestra and the Western partners providing the hardware (camera, lights, grip and sound equipment) and taking charge of post-production.
We hope Comrade Kim Goes Flying becomes a blockbuster in North Korea and attracts an appreciative audience abroad. This has been a great learning experience for all involved and it confirms the simple message of this film:
Whoever you are,
Wherever you are,
Anything is possible.