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The Great North Korean Picture Show


Sat Mar 23 2013, 5:30pm

Where: SAM @ 8Q , 8 Queen Street, Bras Basah, Singapore

Restrictions: All ages

Ticket Information:

  • General Admission: $9.00
  • Additional fees may apply

Korean and English with English Subtitles.

Featuring a post-screening discussion with directors James Leong and Lynn Lee.

Welcome to Hollywood, Kim Jong Il-style. In the North Korean Film Studio, director Pyo Hang is racing to rally his team and complete the country's latest blockbuster that will please his leaders. This documentary is the first time that foreign filmmakers were given access to the country's only film school, where young talents are trained not only in the skills of entertainment, but in such ways as to help shape the psyche of an entire nation, as the film industry is a vital tool of propaganda. Focusing on two aspiring actors who are handpicked to become future stars, this film offers a rare glimpse of how the brightest live in the world's most secretive state.

James Leong and Lynn Lee have made films and documentaries for 10 years. Passabe (2005) was awarded a grant from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, acquired by ARTE and screened at film festivals across the world. They are also the directors of Homeless FC(2006) and Aki Ra's Boys (2007). They have extensive TV experience having produced and directed numerous television documentaries.

Director's Statement:
In 2008, our documentary, Aki Ra’s Boys was invited to the Pyongyang International Film Festival. There, we got a glimpse of a film industry like no other. The North Korean movie stars and directors we met spoke about serving the state and crafting messages that would glorify their leaders. We were intrigued and wanted to find out more, but we were not interested in filming on the sly. We wanted access—­proper access—that would allow us to shoot in key locations and interact and interview our subjects openly and candidly, over an extended period of time. It took us more than half a year to secure this access but we had to agree to a few rules. These rules were not easy to swallow and we thought hard about them, stressing over whether to say yes and possibly be accused of collaborating with the North Koreans. Or say no and have the door closed on us.

In the end, we decided to go for it. We also learnt that the more we tried to respect their rules, the wider the door opened. Some people have suggested that our subjects were merely putting on an act. But we hoped that by being patient, by stepping back, and by being as unobtrusive as possible, we were able to capture moments when they were their genuine, unadulterated selves. All we can say is we opened a door, walked in, and observed. Did we succeed? What is the truth? What is real? The audience will just have to watch and decide.