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.
6 thoughts on “North Korean DVDs”
Personally, I asked a friend of mine who’s an ethnic Korean from China get me some VCDs. Unfortunately, some of the quality of the CDs are so poor, that they’re not readable. Plus, it’s nice to be able to get it enhanced, and with subtitles. This is awesome!
Hi there, we’ve recently visited North Korea and are interested in seeing as many films as possible. Having just watched ‘Crossing the Line’ which is about one of the US defectors who acted in ‘Nameless Heroes’ we’d really like to see it. Would you consider renting us your ‘Nameless Heroes’ given how difficult it looks to obtain all the parts?
Hi, Nameless Heroes (aka Unknown Heroes) is available in 20 parts and has only just surfaced for purchase. Depending on where you live your options for viewing it might be quite limited – National Library of Congress in the US or the Korean Film Archive in Seoul might be able to let you view them on site.
Another option is you can purchase the titles from North Korea Books (http://www.north-korea-books.com/servlet/the-687/NAMELESS-HEROES-Parts-/Detail / or contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org) the price is high but this is probably your only way of buying these incredibly hard to find DVDs. I myself have not purchased them yet but will be doing so in the coming months.
Hope this helps!
Thanks for the information. I’m in the UK so purchase looks like the only option. Doesn’t look as if there are any English subtitles, so perhaps I won’t fork out the USD 400!
Democratization Broadcasting System, a video site run (I think) by North Korean defectors in the UK, has put up all twenty parts of Nameless Heroes (in Korean only). They’ve got many more North Korean films as well.
Can you tell me about Nameless Heroes? Are Dresnok, Jenkins, Abshier, et al. in all of them? Was it a serial, or was each part somehow discrete?