Pyongyang International Film Festival

Pyongyang International Film Festival
Revised Romanization Pyeongyang Yeonghwa Chukjeon
McCune–Reischauer P'yŏngyang Yŏnghwa Ch'ukchŏn

The Pyongyang International Film Festival is a biennial cultural exhibition held in Pyongyang, North Korea. The film festival is an unusually cosmopolitan event for a state known to be reclusive to outside (particularly Western) contact.

The event originated in 1987 as the Pyongyang Film Festival of the Non-aligned and Other Developing Countries.[1] As the name precisely delineated, the festival was a cultural exchange between countries of the Non-Aligned Movement. The maiden event, held from September 1 through September 10, showed short films, features, and documentaries that were judged for competitive awards.

The film festival returned in 1990 and would be regularly held every other year.[1] Recurrent subject matter included domestic cinema that commonly praised the high leadership such as a film shown at the 1992 film festival, verbosely translated, Glory of Our People in Holding the Great Leader in High Esteem, and foreign films about revolutionary resistance. In 2000, officials widened the acceptable breadth of film watching, by screening Japanese films for the first time.

The ninth festival, held in 2004, moderated cultural restrictions further with the screening of a dubbed and censored version of the British comedy Bend It Like Beckham and U.S.-produced South African drama Cry, The Beloved Country. Bend it like Beckham won the music prize and later it became the first Western-made film shown on television in North Korea.

In 2006, the Swedish horror comedy Frostbiten was shown at the festival, the first foreign horror film to ever be shown in North Korea.

The Schoolgirl's Diary, which premiered at the 2006 festival, in 2007 became the first North Korean film in several decades to be picked up for international distribution, when it was purchased by French company Pretty Pictures. It was released in France in late 2007.[2]

In recent years, the film festival has included films from Western countries with which Pyongyang has diplomatic relations. Many of the films are censored and often have themes emphasising family values, loyalty and the temptations of money. In 2008, 110 films were shown from a total of 46 countries.[3]

The festival is held every two years.[1] U.S. and South Korean films are not shown because of the current political climate.[4]

In 2016, the animated Spanish film Mortadelo and Filemon: Mission Implausible was featured, became the first animated Spanish film in be shown and the first comic's adaptation in be shown.

Johannes Schönherr, author of North Korean Cinema: A History and a festival delegate in 2000, said "The Pyongyang International Film Festival is a big propaganda event and foreigners who attend the event become extras in the big propaganda show."[5]


  1. 1 2 3 James Bell (January 2009). "In a lonely place: North Korea's Pyongyang International Film Festival". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  2. Burke, Jason (2006-10-22). "Cinematic bombshell from Kim". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  3. "North Korea Film Festival", LA Times, October 11, 2008.
  4. "Festival brings (some) world cinema to Pyongyang". Daily Mail. AFP. 24 September 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  5. Moxley, Mitch (2015-02-03). "The Reddest Carpet: I Survived the North Korean Film Festival". GQ Magazine.

See also

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