An unusual international film festival opens Thursday in Pyongyang, North Korea. The Pyongyang International Film Festival is held every two years and offers North Koreans their only chance to see a wide array of foreign films on the big screen – from Britain, Germany and elsewhere (but not America).
It is also the only time foreigners are allowed into the country to watch movies alongside locals.
This year, attendees will have the opportunity to see two feature films shot in North Korea but edited overseas: the romantic comedy “Comrade Kim Goes Flying,” a joint North Korean-European production, and “Meet in Pyongyang,” made in conjunction with a Chinese studio.
The country is obsessed with films, some well-to-do residents paying as much as 500 won (about $5) to see new releases from the government-run Korean Film Studio, as well as Russian and Chinese imports.
The rest tune into the Mansudae TV channel, which shows mostly Chinese and Eastern European films on weekends. Some recent flicks have included “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and the only western offering shown on state TV in recent memory, the British film “Bend It Like Beckham,” which aired in 2010.
The former leader of the country Kim Jong Il, who died in December, was also a notorious film enthusiast. At the age of 7, he saw his first film – “My Hometown” – the inaugural film made at by the Korean Film Studio about a young man who returns to his village after Korea is liberated from Japan, made a lifelong impression on the future leader, according to Choe Hung Ryol, director of the studio’s external affairs department.
In 1973 Kim published a treatise called “On the Art of the Cinema,” in which he extolled filmmaking as a way to aid the people’s “development into true communists.”
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