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Pyongyang International Film Festival

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Pyongyang International Film Festival
Korean name
평양 국제 영화 축전
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 (Korean쁠럭불가담 및 기타 발전도상나라들의 평양 영화 축전; RRPpeulleokbulgadam Mit Gita Baljeondosangnaradeurui Pyeongyang Yeonghwa Chukjeon; MRPpŭllŏkpulgadam Mit Kit'a Palchŏndosangnaradŭrŭi P'yŏngyang Yŏnghwa Ch'ukchŏn).[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.[citation needed]

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[4] and U.S.-produced South African drama Cry, The Beloved Country.[5] Bend it like Beckham won the music prize[citation needed] and later it became the first Western-made film shown on television in North Korea.[6][7]

In 2006, the Swedish horror comedy Frostbite was shown at the festival,[8] the first foreign horror film to ever be shown in North Korea.[citation needed] The Schoolgirl's Diary, which was released the same year, 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.[9]


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".[10]

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.[11] South Korean films are not shown because of the current political climate.[12][better source needed] Films critical of North Korea 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.[10] 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.[10] 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."[13]

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 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
North Korea O Mi-ran
for Traces of Life
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 Wild Reed (Cỏ lau) (directed by Vuong duc)[14] Iran Abolfazl Poorarab
for The Bride
North Korea Kim Kyong-ae
for The Kind-Hearted Girl
1996 5th China Red Cherry China Guo Keyu
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 Syria Bassam Kousa
for The Extras
North Korea Jang Son-hui
for The Earth of Love
2002 8th[15] 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 China Wang Zhiwen
for On the Other Side of the Bridge
2006 10th[16] 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[17] 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[18] China Walking to School Iran Khosro Masumi
for Wind Blows in the Meadow
Russia Fyodor Dobronravov
for A Man at Home
Germany Martina Gedeck
for Bets and Wedding Dresses
2012 13th Germany Lessons of a Dream North KoreaBelgium Nicholas Bonner, Anja Daelemans, Ryom Mi Hwa
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(我的渡口)
China Zhou Guangda(周光大)
for The Ferry
Russia Svetlana Khodchenkova
for Vasilisa
2016 15th North Korea The Story of Our Home 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 Old Aunt(老阿姨)(north korean title for the film meant "The Woman Behind the Man") Russia Klim Shipenko
for Salyut
China Li Xuejian
for Old Aunt(老阿姨)(north korean title for the film meant "The Woman Behind the Man")
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. ^ "In a lonely place: North Korea's Pyongyang International Film Festival". 10 February 2012. Archived from the original on 2 March 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2024. ...the 2006 festival screened Bean, Billy Elliott and Bend It Like Beckham...
  5. ^ Schwankert, Steven (7 October 2011). "Pyongyang Film Festival Set for 2012". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 April 2024. In previous editions, the festival has screened feature films including Mr. Bean, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, South Africa's Cry, The Beloved Country and Sweden's Frostbitten.
  6. ^ "First Western film aired on N. Korean TV". United Press International. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2024.
  7. ^ Kim, Young-jin (31 December 2012). "British soccer flick a hit in Pyongyang". The Korea Times. Retrieved 28 April 2024.
  8. ^ Elley, Derek (24 September 2006). "N. Korean festival draws int'l crowd". Variety. Retrieved 28 April 2024.
  9. ^ Burke, Jason (2006-10-22). "Cinematic bombshell from Kim". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  10. ^ a b c Schönherr 2012, p. 11.
  11. ^ "North Korea Film Festival", LA Times, October 11, 2008.
  12. ^ "Festival brings (some) world cinema to Pyongyang". AFP. 24 September 2016. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  13. ^ Moxley, Mitch (2015-02-03). "The Reddest Carpet: I Survived the North Korean Film Festival". GQ Magazine.
  14. ^ "NSƯT Ngọc Bích có tài "phân thân"". An ninh thu do.
  15. ^ "Pyongyang Film Festival closes". Korean Central News Agency. 2002-09-14.
  16. ^ "Pyongyang Int'l Film Festival Closes". Korean Central News Agency. 2006-09-22.
  17. ^ "Pyongyang International Film Festival Closes". Korean Central News Agency. 2008-09-27.
  18. ^ "Int'l Film Festival Closes". Korean Central News Agency. 2010-09-24.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]