2010 Pyongyang Film Festival

According to the AFP:

One of the world’s most tightly-controlled societies got a rare glimpse of the outside world at the Pyongyang International Film Festival last week, where even Western films were screened.

Communist North Korea strictly controls access to information, including via mobile phones and the Internet, leaving most North Koreans in ignorance of the wider world. A tour guide had never heard of the late pop star Michael Jackson.

Yet participants in the 12th Pyongyang International Film Festival, which ended on September 24, say it helped open a window for the impoverished country.

Only a minority of the population was able to attend the event, but it gave them access to documentaries, feature films and shorts from several European countries and Canada.

Productions from Asia, Russia, the Middle East and elsewhere were also on the programme.

Henrik Nydqvist, a freelance film producer who was Sweden’s official delegate to the eight-day event, said anything which breaks North Korea’s isolation is positive.

“We think we’re doing something good here,” he said. “We feel we can make some positive impact… and that outweighs the other things.”

The festival has its own venue, the Pyongyang International Cinema House, which includes a 2,000-seat theatre as well as other smaller halls.

Red, blue and green neon signs hanging in the atrium beam the country’s foreign policy slogan: “Peace, independence, friendship”.

A 300-seat hall was almost completely filled with Koreans for an afternoon screening of the comedy “Pieces d’Identites” from Congo.

They sat quietly behind padlocked doors in a hot, airless room for the story of an African king who travels to Belgium in search of his daughter, who has been forced to work as a nude dancer.

The film’s images include bordellos and a heaving African nightclub, depicting a world alien to North Koreans who are bombarded with propaganda from childhood and whose showpiece capital Pyongyang appears to be stuck in a time decades past.

Such images can only help to bring about change, said a source connected with the film festival.

“They have in mind: Why is North Korea, my country, different?”

Connections are required to gain admission and authorities do not want the rural masses outside of the capital to see foreign movies, he said.

“I watched some poor people who wanted to see the movie, and the guard stopped them.”

At the event’s closing ceremony attended by more than 1,500 people, including foreign diplomats, Nydqvist read a letter of thanks to Kim Jong-Il, ruler of the country which has twice tested nuclear weapons and is under various United States and United Nations sanctions.

“The Pyongyang International Film Festival is unique,” the letter said, thanking Kim for his “care and interest.”

Such messages are common practice in the country, Nydqvist said.

Read the full story here:
Foreign films give isolated N.Korea rare window on world
AFP
10/2/2010

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