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Chollima studios in Ptingyang, North Korea | by Eric Lafforgue
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Chollima studios in Ptingyang, North Korea

Unless the film offer is quite poor, people of North Korea are very fond of cinema. And so is their charismatic cheerleader. General Kim Jong-Il pays a special respect to this medium, allegedly the “most powerful for educating the masses”. For that matter, the Guide wrote an essay called Theory of Cinematic Art where he says “it is cinema's duty to turn people into true communists” and sees it as “a means of eradicating capitalist elements”. It is actually an efficient means of diffusion of propaganda, especially towards the youth. That is why there exists a Studio in Pyongyang that is dedicated only to make films for Youngsters


Moreover he is said to have thousands of films in his personal library and to have had 7 cinemas built only for him in Pyongyang. Besides, the principal Studio (Korean Film Studio) is State-run. 93 km2-studios have been built in the periphery of the capital. Kim Jong-il realized a movie about founder of North Korea and father Kim Il-Sung and proclaimed himself a “Genius of cinema”! He even had famous South Korean director Shin Sang-Ok and his wife kidnapped in 1978 by North Korean secret service. Then he ordered the famous director from South Korea to make movies for him, providing him with all the money he needed to achieve it. He directed more than 20 movies, many of them being propaganda. The director was then jailed for having tried to escape. They managed to escape no sooner than 1986. One year later the Pyongyang Film Festival of Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries kicked off. Facing the lack of participating countries, it opened later on to “aligned countries” like France, Germany and Great Britain.


Besides Famous actors are depicted on murals around the city and even on official currency. The entrance hall to the Korean Feature Film Studio contains a mural of current "Dear Leader", Kim Jong-il supervising the production of this film. North Korean films tend to portray communist and/or revolutionary themes. Among them, martyrdom for the Nation and sacrifice are notions that are very recurrent, patriots and heroes fighting real enemies such as Japanese people or monsters. The myth of a powerful nation lacking the leadership of an outstanding man to guide the masses through the darkness and build a strong Nation is a must.


© Eric Lafforgue

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Taken on May 10, 2010