The 22nd Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (Festival Director: CHOI Yongbae, hereafter BIFAN) received final approval from the relevant authorities today to publicly screen nine North Korean films. Accordingly, BIFAN has revealed plans for a program featuring 'A Special Screening of North Korean Films' to keep pace with the rapidly changing international situation and the current atmosphere of peace on the Korean Peninsula.
A total of nine full-length and short films that are being shown in South Korea for the time ever are awaiting BIFAN's audiences, such as The Story of Our Home - winner of the Best Torch Award at the 2016 Pyongyang Film Festival - and the children's animation Let's Keep the Traffic Order. The films that are included in the special screening will show the current state of North Korean cinema. This special screening is the first official screening of North Korean films following the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration, and is the first instance that such films have broken free from their status of being 'limited releases' to being freely shown to South Korean audiences. North Korean films and videos are currently considered to be 'special data' according to relevant statutes and are screened on a strictly limited basis. Even when permission is granted for a screening, the film is ordinarily categorized as a 'limited release' that is shown to a select group of people who have been chosen after going through a strict process and procedure; that is the convention that will be broken during the special screening at BIFAN.
Since last year when developments and changes between North and South Korean relations could be anticipated with the establishment of the MOON Jae-in administration, BIFAN and Bucheon City have been making every effort to create an opportunity for BIFAN's audiences to meet North Korean filmmakers and films. At the beginning of this year, BIFAN received prior approval from the Ministry of Unification and sent the screening approval and official invitations for directors and actors to the National Reconciliation Council of North Korea. Amid the series of ups and downs that followed such as the inter-Korean summit at Panmunjom in April and the 2018 North Korea-United States summit at Singapore in June, BIFAN was eventually given the green light to screen the North Korean films.
Although BIFAN has yet to receive a response regarding its invitation of the North Korean filmmakers and actors behind this year's special screenings, it plans on patiently waiting for a response until the film festival's closing day. While BIFAN waits for a response, audiences will be able to see how North Korea looks under the administration of Chairman KIM Jong-un through the films that will be featured in the special program.
The special screening, titled ‘A First Letter from an Unknown Country’, was organized through the cooperation of the Ministry of Unification, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, National Intelligence Service Korea, Korean Film Archive and the Foundation of Inter-Korea Cooperation. It will feature three full-length and six short films that were produced in North Korea from the 1980s until the current administration of Chairman KIM Jong-un.
The winner of the Best Torch Award at the most recent Pyongyang Film Festival, The Story of Our Home (2016) is a touching story of a young woman who looks after a group of orphaned children. The film, which is based on the true story of 18-year-old 'child mother' JANG Jong-hwa from North Korea, also portrays the wide dissemination of cell phones in present-day North Korea and the stories of the people living there. BIFAN has invited the actress of the film, who won the award for Best Actress in a Full-Length Art Film at the Pyongyang Film Festival, and the film's director to attend this year's festival; BIFAN is currently waiting for a response to the invitations. Let's Keep the Traffic Order (2006), which is an animation that shows how North Korea and Pyongyang have changed, features scenes showing a water park, dolphin show hall, and an amusement park. It also shows the reality of North Korea where the volume of traffic has increased so much that traffic rules are needed.
Other films that have been invited to be screened include the classic monster film Pulgasari (1985), which premiered in South Korea for the first time in the year 2000 under the title of being the 'number one North Korean film', and Comrade Kim Goes Flying (2012), which is a film that was co-produced by North Korea, the UK, and Belgium and is one of the most well-known North Korean films. BIFAN is currently waiting for the result of the invitation that was sent out for one of the actors that starred in Comrade Kim Goes Flying.
Along with the special screenings, active discussions regarding the future exchanges between the two Koreas will be continuing on at BIFAN Industry Gathering (B.I.G). BIFAN has organized two different forums that will be joined by a group of specialists who will be engaging in conversations that highlight North Korean films. First, after kicking things off with a keynote speech from director PARK Yeong-i who has experience with producing films in both North and South Korea, 'Stepping-Stones to Reunification: Analyzing Inter-Korean Interactions Through Films' will be joined by research professor from Konkuk University JEON Young-sun, specialist HAN Seung-ho, and specialist on policy studies OH Yang-yeol as audiences find out about cultural differences and communication between North and South Korea and the possibilities for cultural exchange and coordination. Co-presented by the Producers Guild of Korea (PGK) and the Korea Science Fiction Association, the 'Sci-Fi Fantastic Forum: Sci-Fi and Fantasy in the North Korean World of Art and Culture' will be featuring an in-depth discussion about North Korea's sci-fi literature and the fantastic nature of North Korean cinema along with the head of the Seoul SF Archive PARK Sangjoon and academic director of the Korea Science Fiction Association LEE Jiyong.
Let's Keep the Traffic Order will be shown on July 14th (Sat.) at 7:00 p.m. at Songnae Eoul Madang Solan Art Hall, Pulgasari will be shown on the 18th (Wed.) at 2:00 p.m. at the Korea Manhwa Museum Animation Cinema, Comrade Kim Goes Flying will be shown on the 20th (Fri.) at 11:00 a.m. at the Korea Manhwa Museum Animation Cinema, and The Story of Our Home will be screened on the 22nd (Sun.) at 8:00 p.m. at CGV Bucheon 3, as well as outdoors on the 15th (Sun.) at 8:00 p.m. at Lawn Square, Bucheon City Hall where it will be shown for free. Korea Now's 'Sci-Fi Fantastic Forum: Sci-Fi and Fantasy in the North Korean World of Art and Culture' will be held on the 13th (Fri.) at 2:00 p.m. and 'Stepping-Stones to Reunification: Analyzing Inter-Korean Interactions Through Films' will be held on the 20th (Fri.) at 2:00 p.m.; both are scheduled to be held at Bucheon City Hall's Fantastic Cube.