Pyongyang International Film Festival

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Pyongyang International Film Festival
Pyongyang International Film Festival 2014 (15349304435) (2).jpg
Revised Romanization Pyeongyang Gukje Yeonghwa Chukjeon
McCune–Reischauer P'yŏngyang Kukche Yŏnghwa Ch'ukchŏn

The Pyongyang International Film Festival is a biennial cultural exhibition held in Pyongyang, North Korea. The film festival is a very cosmopolitan event, especially in the more recent years; prior to 2002, it 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.[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]

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 is held in the autumn every two years. 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]

In 2016, the animated Spanish film Mortadelo and Filemon: Mission Implausible was featured, became the first animated Spanish film and the first comic's adaptation to be shown.[citation needed]

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]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "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". Daily Mail. 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. 

Works cited[edit]

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