The eternal problem for any North Korean movie enthusiast (although sometimes I feel like I’m the only one out there!) is how to track the films down.
From sites like Wikipedia and IMDb (and dare I say it, this humble site here) it’s possible to find out information about a huge number of North Korean titles. But with mistranslations, inaccuracies about dates it’s not always possible to get an definitive idea about what’s out there.
Far and away the most asked question when people write into the site is how can I get my hands on North Korean movies. Well, if you don’t live in Pyongyang, work at an academic institution that has the movies or live near the Korean Film Archive the best option is to visit the website North Korea Books.
Run by one Mr Nicholas Mercury, the site has possibly the largest selection of North Korean DVDs anywhere on the web. As the website’s name suggests, you’ll also be able to find an extensive array of books – including Kim Jong-il’s On The Art of the Cinema and Korean Film Art, the definitive book on North Korean movies (well, until I get around to publishing one, that is!).
It’s a labour of love for Nicholas who spends considerable time and effort tracking down new and exciting titles. Here’s what he said about his last expedition in China to track down all 20 parts of Nameless Heroes:
NAMELESS HEROES Parts 1 to 18 (I already had Parts 19 and 20): The person I hire in Beijing to do film related research and Korean to English translations found someone in Wuhan who had these available for sale (I had been searching for years…). The problem was that this seller REFUSED to sell to anyone Chinese and would only sell to me if I went there and purchased from him in person. So I had to take the train there, then pay for a guide in Wuhan since I cannot speak any Mandarin, then meet the seller and pay his not inexpensive price for each of the 18 parts (sold separately of course). Due to it being some holiday I then discovered that no trains were available to return to Beijing so ended up stranded there until forced to buy a plane ticket a few days later. Then upon returning to Canada, WEEKS of work to correct and improve the quality of the original material (some parts were too dark, others had audio/video synchronization problems etc…the usual DPRK quality problems).”
Although the titles are not cheap, when you consider that the only other options are going without these movies altogether you can understand why I found it entirely necessary to purchase as many as I can.
Hopefully 2012 will be an important year for this site, and with the help of Nicholas and the countless DVDs I will be purchasing in the near future, you can expect some interesting insights into the world of North Korean cinema and some blog posts on films rarely seen outside the DPRK.