Films in the DPRK
May 10, 2013 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Former Great Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il was a noted cinephile with a personal video library of over 20,000 movies. In 1970, he said "The motion picture industry, when dealing with the socialist reality, has not yet reached the standard set by our Party." To help it reach the standard, the Dear Leader wrote a treatise On the Art of the Cinema (PDF), took an interest in minute details of film production (as recounted by film stars), revamped the Taedongmun Cinema House, and kidnapped a director (previously 1, 2.) But did this lead to better movies?....

It's hard to know. We are aware of over 200 North Korean films (database & Wiki) but very few of them have been seen outside the DPRK, and not all of those have English subtitles. But some do and have found their way to YouTube. For example:But one thing you might notice, as you browse through this relatively large playlist of North Korean movies on YouTube is that whether the story involves an old man or a young woman, whether it's about a soldier or a tree planter, the movies usually end on a similar set of themes.
posted by twoleftfeet (11 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I saw Plugasari years ago. It was communist Hanna Barbara, low frame rate with odd colors, but oddly entertaining.
posted by Mblue at 3:56 PM on May 10, 2013

[Obligatory Team America reference]
posted by spitbull at 5:56 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

One thing that struck me about pulgasari was how, well, Marxist it was. IIRC the plot involved a village that was being oppressed by feudal lords. They manage to free themselves after they discover (I don't remember how) a monster that grows larger and larger the more iron they feed it. But after driving off the lords, the villagers find themselves beholden to the monster, which demands more and more iron as it grows larger and larger (representing capitalism more or less straightforwardly). Anyway, I was surprised to find out that North Korean Marxism was at least at the time had a fairly nuanced view of capital's historical role.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:30 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

But after driving off the lords, the villagers find themselves beholden to the monster, which demands more and more iron as it grows larger and larger (representing capitalism more or less straightforwardly).

Check out The Flower Girl link above starting at 1:56:50.

Really, watch the last minutes of pretty much any of these movies. It''s interesting.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:42 PM on May 10, 2013

Thanks for this post, twoleftfeed. It's hard to find much material on North Korean films.

Regarding Pulgasari, it is apparently based in part on folk tales of Korea about an insect made from a rice ball who has an insatiable appetite for metal, though I haven't found any other source that verifies this. Another source claims Pulgasari is based on a different folk tale, one of a woman of chaste reputation who becomes the wife of a district magistrate.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:22 PM on May 10, 2013

Hey, filthy light thief! I'm going to make another link here (more clickable than a single number) to that post you did about Shin Sang-ok. That was a great post, with many more links than I realized when I linked to it ("2") above.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:47 PM on May 10, 2013

Given the regime's eagerness to publicly troll the US, I wonder if the rare gems of the Kim movierama will be uploaded to Pirate Bay at some point in the future. They could adopt MPAA logic and domestically present every curious download as a victorious conversion of yet another decadent western citizen to the glorious unity of their nation:

Dear Leader's spirit lives on in the form of bittorrent pieces, crusading through TCP connections to the great vexation of the Imperialist devils! Seed, comrades, seed!

Of course they'd need some infrastructure beyond the level of cups and string, but maybe they can rifle through the neighbour's trashcan for an old laptop or something.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 9:38 PM on May 10, 2013

An American defector - James Joseph Dresnok - starred in many North Korean films. You can see snippets of them in the BBC doc Crossing the Line. He usually played the part of the evil US military leader. He gained a loving cult following in his own country and is the rare example of a celebrity in such a country.

He's still alive, in spite of his failing health. He tweets from @JamesDresnok.
posted by Cram-It Chris at 7:34 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Man, nobody follows my 476 page treatise on how movies should be made.
posted by RobotHero at 10:44 AM on May 11, 2013

Since no one has pointed it out, I have to mention The Schoolgirl's Diary again. It takes some rather large balls to produce a movie where the whole point of the movie, the ultimate ending, is to talk about how wonderful you are.

Big as their egos are, Hollywood producers got nothing on Kim Jong Il.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:12 PM on May 15, 2013

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