As North Korea approaches its 70th founding anniversary, it also welcomes its biennial International Film Festival. Despite the conundrums surrounding the country, and its history with cult movie Pulgasari, the Pyongyang International Film Festival' is one of the very few functions in North Korea actively seeking international attention.
What originated as the 'Pyongyang Film Festival of the Non-aligned and Other Developing Countries' in 1987, is now in its biennial 16th edition under the ambit of 'Pyongyang International Film Festival' and is scheduled from 19th to 28th September 2018.
Since its transition to accepting almost all international entries since 2002, the multi-cultural event has primarily been dominated by Western Europe; with Bend it Like Beckham (albeit dubbed and censored) post-screening turning into the first western film broadcast on North Korean television in 2004. On the other hand, a North Korean production,The Schoolgirl's Diary became a first in being picked up for international distribution following its 2006 screening and consequently released in France. In fact, the Indian rendition of Jane Austen's classic Bride and Prejudice was also once screened at the festival.
Although filmmakers from across the world are encouraged to send in entries, emphasis continues to lie on the importance of family values, loyalty, the temptations of money; and naturally, films even remotely indicative of political differences or sexually explicit content are filtered out. The otherwise anything goes criteria results in a strange mix of screenings. They vary across categories such as feature films, documentaries, short films, animations, informative screenings, amond others.
The festival in 2016, although did not include the United States of America or South Korea, did have entries from countries like India, Germany, and France; 60 movies from 21 countries comprised the selection, with 11 of them vying for the Best Torch Award (encompassing ‘Independence, Peace and Friendship’ — and their mettle when pit against the ideology of Juche, or self-reliance, developed by the country’s founding father, Kim Il-sung).
This venue for the festival continues to be the Pyongyang International Cinema House, and the festival stretches across 9 days. The Film Festival have partnered with Koryo Tours, who will organise 4-day tours to visit the festival via Beijing, China. The tour will focus on the festival, other aspects of Chollywood (the North Korean Film Festival) and Pyongyang in general.
But will one actually be able to attend it? That's another question altogether.
Find out more here.