Pyongyang International Film Festival

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Pyongyang International Film Festival
Pyongyang International Film Festival 2014 (15349304435) (2).jpg
Korean name
Revised RomanizationPyeongyang Gukje Yeonghwa Chukjeon
McCune–ReischauerP'yŏngyang Kukche Yŏnghwa Ch'ukchŏn

The Pyongyang International Film Festival is a biennial cultural exhibition held in Pyongyang, North Korea. Until 2002, the film festival was reserved to "non-aligned and other developing countries".[1]


The event originated in 1987 as the Pyongyang Film Festival of the Non-aligned and Other Developing Countries(쁠럭불가담 및 기타 발전도상 나라들의 평양영화축전).[2] 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.[2] 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 when Yoji Yamada arrived to present six of his films.[3] 2002 saw further relaxation of rules and since then the festival has been open to more than just "non-aligned and other developing countries".[1]

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.[4]


The festival was held in the autumn every two years until 2018; after that, the festival has become yearly, with the 17th edition organized in September 2019. It has an international jury and both competitive and non-competitive submissions. In that sense, it is "structured ... very much like any other international film festival".[5]

Since 2000, the festival has been dominated by films from Western Europe.[3] 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.[6] South Korean films are not shown because of the current political climate.[7][better source needed] Films critical of North Korean from anywhere in the world are not allowed and neither are sexually explicit films. Anything else goes, and the organizers try to get as many films and visitors to attend.[5] Diplomatic connections or the personal initiative of filmmakers is what often results in a film being admitted. The result is often "an odd mix" of films that are not united by one genre. In recent years, the festival has enjoyed recent popularity abroad, mainly due to the success of South Korean cinema prompting foreign film enthusiasts' curiosity about the North. Consequentially, film submissions have increased and the selection of films has improved in quality.[3]

The festival is one of the few North Korean functions that actively seeks connection with the outside world.[5] 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."[8]

Most Japanese films and all American, Taiwanese and South Korean films are banned in North Korea. Taiwanese and South Korean films are banned because of the anti-communist nature of their countries.

Major Award Winners[edit]

Year Best Film Grand Prix(홰불금상, golden torch award) Best Director Best Actor Best Actress
1987 1st North Korea A Broad Bellflower Iran Jamshid Mashayekhi
for The Grandfather
North Korea O Mi-ran
for A Broad Bellflower
1990 2nd Iran Little Bird of Happiness Egypt Omar Sharif
for The Puppeteer(الاراجوز )
North Korea O Mi-ran
for Traces of Life (생의 흔적)
1992 3rd North Korea Nation and Destiny (Parts 1 & 2) Iran Alireza Khamseh
for Apartment No.13
India Shabana Azmi
for Libaas
1994 4th Vietnam The Forest of Reed(Cỏ Lau) (by Nsut Vương Đức) Iran Abolfazl Poorarab(ابوالفضل پورعرب)
for The Bride(عروس)
North Korea Kim Kyong-ae
for The Kind-Hearted Girl(고마운 처녀)
1996 5th China Red Cherry China Guo Keyu(郭柯宇)
for Red Cherry
1998 6th North Korea Myself in the Distant Future Iran Khosrow Shakibai
for Long Lost Sisters
North Korea Kim Hye-gyong
for Myself in the Distant Future
2000 7th Iran The Lost Love(عشق گمشده) Syria Bassam Kousa
for The Extras
North Korea Jang Son-hui
for The Earth of Love(사랑의 대지)
2002 8th[9] Russia The Star North Korea Kim Chol
for Souls Protest
Iran Hedieh Tehrani
for Party
2004 9th China Gone Is the One Who Held me dearest in the world(世界上最疼我的那个人走了) China Wang Zhiwen
for On the Other Side of the Bridge(Am anderen Ende der Brücke)
2006 10th[10] Germany Before the Fall France Stéphane Brizé
for Not Here to Be Loved
Belgium Jan Decleir
for Off Screen
Switzerland Sara Capretti
for Sternenberg
2008 11th[11] China Assembly China Feng Xiaogang
for Assembly
Bosnia and Herzegovina Saša Petrović
for It's Hard to Be Nice
Iran Bita Farrahi
for Mainline
2010 12th[12] China Walking to School(走路上學) Iran Khosro Masumi(خسرو معصومی)
for Wind Blows in the Meadow(باد در علفزار می‌پیچد)
Russia Fyodor Dobronravov
for A Man at Home(Мужчина в доме)
Germany Martina Gedeck
for Bets and Wedding Dresses
2012 13th Germany Lessons of a Dream 3 Directors
for Comrade Kim Goes Flying
Germany Daniel Brühl
for Lessons of a Dream
Russia Polina Kutepova
for Wind House
2014 14th Germany My Beautiful Country China Shi Wei(石伟)
for The Ferry
China Zhou Guangda (周光大)
for The Ferry (我的渡口)
Russia Svetlana Khodchenkova
for Vasilisa
2016 15th North Korea The Story of Our Home (우리집 이야기) Russia Oleg Asadulin
for Green Carriage
Russia Andrey Merzlikin
for Green Carriage
North Korea Paek Sol-mi
for The Story of Our Home
2018 16th China The Woman Behind the Man Russia Klim Shipenko
for Salyut
China Li Xuejian
for The Woman Behind the Man (老阿姨, also translated as Old aunt)
China He Saifei
for Goddesses in the Flames of War

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Pyongyang International Film Festival". PIFF. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b James Bell (January 2009). "In a lonely place: North Korea's Pyongyang International Film Festival". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Schönherr 2012, p. 12.
  4. ^ Burke, Jason (2006-10-22). "Cinematic bombshell from Kim". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  5. ^ a b c Schönherr 2012, p. 11.
  6. ^ "North Korea Film Festival", LA Times, October 11, 2008.
  7. ^ "Festival brings (some) world cinema to Pyongyang". AFP. 24 September 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  8. ^ Moxley, Mitch (2015-02-03). "The Reddest Carpet: I Survived the North Korean Film Festival". GQ Magazine.
  9. ^ "Pyongyang Film Festival closes". Korean Central News Agency. 2002-09-14.
  10. ^ "Pyongyang Int'l Film Festival Closes". Korean Central News Agency. 2006-09-22.
  11. ^ "Pyongyang International Film Festival Closes". Korean Central News Agency. 2008-09-27.
  12. ^ "Int'l Film Festival Closes". Korean Central News Agency. 2010-09-24.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]