Occidentalism
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North Korean movie at Cannes

May 22nd, 2007 . by Matt

I must say this is a Korean movie that I am looking forward to seeing.

CANNES, France: North Korea’s first film bidding for buyers at the Cannes market provides a rare look at the fortress nation seen through teenage eyes.

“The Schoolgirl’s Diary,” one of only two films produced by Pyongyang last year, chronicles a girl’s life through her school years, grappling with peer pressure and family problems much the same as those the world over.

“It is not pure propaganda,” said James Velaise of Pretty Pictures, who snapped up distribution rights at the Pyongyang filmfest last September, a two-yearly event barred to US movie types but open to a handful of European and Communist nations.

“It’s the first time North Korea has been shown on the market,” Velaise told AFP. The film, which reportedly saw eight million admissions at home last year, or roughly one out of three North Koreans, will be released in France at the end of the year.

The movie, described by trade magazine Variety as “well-lensed,” debuts unexpectedly with schoolgirls in uniform carrying Mickey Mouse bags.

Just as surprising is the heroine’s — Su-ryeon, played by 18-year-old Pak Mi-hyang — early confession of yearning to live in a modern apartment building, rather than a house.

Computers, TV sets, good food, football matches, quiet Sunday picnics at the park, and students with a smattering of English — suggest a comfortable lifestyle in the world’s secretive communist bastion.

The plot sees Su-ryeon, younger daughter of a researcher and a science librarian, complaining of the absence of her work-obsessive father.

The mother too spends little time with her and soccer-playing sister Su-ok, working through the nights at home translating scientific documents — by hand — for the husband.

But after the mother falls ill of cancer and the father cracks a computer conundrum, Su-ryeon finally comes to realise she’s been selfish and self-centred all along — love and sacrifice can go a long way to helping the nation, as does the “Dear General.”

I have seen some North Korean cartoons, but they were propaganda and boring to boot. This seems alright, so I am looking forward to seeing it.


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