Beijing screening of new North Korea doc “Hana, dul, sed”

The good folks at Koryo Tours are hosting the China premier of an Austrian produced documentary “Hana, dul, sed”. If you’re into a more factual look at the workings of North Korea head along to the Bookworm in Beijing (details below) on Tuesday 27th March at 7.30pm. The director will be along afterwards for a Q&A.

Here’s the blurb they sent out:

Join us for the China premiere of Hana, dul, sed … A documentary by Austrian filmmaker Brigitte Weich which gives us a subtle glimpse of the workings of Pyongyang society and the way ideology functions in its citizens’ work and personal lives.

It is a film about four young women, their friendship, dreams, hopes, and the passion for football they share. Being a member of the women’s national team is not only a way to make a living but gives the players prestige, popularity, and certain privileges, like larger food rations. To Ri Jong Hi, Ra Mi Ae, Jin Pyol Hi, and Ri Hyang Ok, however, football is not about fame or fortune but hope. “What is beautiful about soccer,” says one, “is that when you run onto the pitch, it’s like your heart opens up wide, like you could take on the world.”

The film screening (98 mins) will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s director.

Place: The Bookworm

Tel: (010) 6586 9507

Date: Tuesday 27th March

Time: 19:30

Cost: RMB 20 for members, RMB 30 for non-members (includes a free drink)


Bend it Like Beckham on North Korean TV

It’s been an incredibly busy year for North Korea politically. And as December saw the death of leader Kim Jong Il, few (and by few, I really mean me) were recalling that this time last year saw the first screening on North Korean television of a Western movie. Of course, Russian, Chinese and other friendly communist countries have had films broadcast on sate TV before, but the appearance of Bend It Like Beckham (2002) on December 26, 2010 was an absolute first.

Earlier in 2011 I managed to get into contact with Peter Hughes (UK Ambassador to the DPRK from 2008-2011) and asked him how this event managed to be organised. After some delay – apparently there are things even more important than this website going on over there – he responding with the following article. You will also note the good people at Koryo Tours had a hand in getting it on TV and – despite what the media reported – not as much of the movie was edited out as was first claimed. Anyway, not strictly about North Korean films but you may find it interesting:

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Review: The Schoolgirl’s Diary

Sacrifice is something that is particularly hard to comprehend during adolescence. In Jang In-hak’s modern melodrama, we see the 16-year-old Su-ryeon (Pak Mi-hyang) struggle to come to terms with the fact that her absentee father works tirelessly in the city on a scientific breakthrough (“for the good of the Nation”) while she, her mother, her sister and her grandmother must live in the countryside without him. Her self-absorbed notions bring her into conflict with her family and friends, but after a period of struggle she realizes that sacrifice by everyone is essential for everyone in the modern age.

This low-key melodramatic tale of the problems facing the current middle classes appeared at the Cannes Film Festival where it attracted attention from French distributor Pretty Pictures. The release of the film in Europe meant that it was one of the first North Korean films to receive healthy distribution outside of the DPRK.

So what was it that made “The Schoolgirl’s Diary” more appealing than the kung fu hit “Hong Kil Dong” or the action adventure of “Order No. 27”? Gentle and comedic in tone, “The Schoolgirl’s Diary” touches on themes of patriotism but never rams them down your through. Also, Pak Mi-hyang in the lead creates a believable portrayal of a mildly angsty teen who wishes to see more of her father and move to a big apartment in the big city.

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Centre Forward

The excellent folk at Beijing-based Koryo Tours (the best people to deal with if you want to travel to the DPRK) licensed this little “gem” of a film directly from North Korea around the time of the last world cup.

It’s a chipper production that surprisingly mirrors many of the problems in modern football: too much player power, interfering owners and supporters who just love to complain.

The actual scenes of football, however, are not that great. They make Sly Stallone’s efforts in Escape to Victory look like these fellas in yellow. It also makes another addition into the sporting genre of North Korean films that I’ve been watching recently. Watch out of more updates on those in the next couple of days.

Still definitely worth a gander, especially as this is a particularly rare film to make it out of the DPRK with great English subtitling. To purchase a copy, email the guys at and then can hook you up.

The Game of Their Lives

The Game of their Lives (2002) is a great documentary about the North Korean football team who won a lot of fans during their outstanding campaign in the 1966 World Cup in England.

Considered total outsiders, they managed to beat Italy 1-0 and even made it to the quarter-finals where they faced Portugal and the devastating Eusébio and came unstuck.

Not as politically loaded as some of the documentaries I’ve seen about the DPRK but it does serve as a good caveat to some of the sporting movies I’ll be writing about in the coming weeks.

Find parts twothreefourfivesixseven and eight on