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Pyongyang International Film Festival Places North Korean Values Above All Else

A New York Times correspondent attended this year's edition of the festival.

Wong Maye-E/AP/REX/Shutterstock

With AFI Fest just a few weeks away, film-festival season is nearly over for the year. In addition to Venice, Telluride and Toronto, another fest recently concluded: the 15th annual Pyongyang International Film Festival, to which the New York Times sent a correspondent. 60 movies from 21 countries comprised this year’s selection, with with 11 of them vying for the Best Torch Award.

READ MORE: Tricking the Government: How to Shoot a Documentary in North Korea

The main criterion for winning said prize, according to the NYT: “how well they symbolized the festival’s official theme — ‘Independence, Peace and Friendship’ — and whether they articulated the ideology of juche, or self-reliance, developed by the country’s founding father, Kim Il-sung.” Kim Jong-il, the country’s Dear Leader who passed away five years ago, was a known cinephile, even going so far as to kidnap a South Korean filmmaker and actress so that they could make movies for him; this resulted in a bizarre, “Godzilla”-like movie called “Pulgasari” and was recently the subject of the documentary “The Lovers and the Despot.”

Vicky Mohieddeen of Koryo Tours, a partner of PIFF that assists filmmakers from beyond North Korea’s borders submit their work to the Ministry of Culture for possible inclusion, said that the festival focuses on movies that “display themes of self-reliance, community spirit and morality common in domestically produced movies.”

READ MORE: ‘Under the Sun’ Review: A Terrifying Glimpse Inside North Korea’s Dictatorship

Not included in the lineup this year were any movies from the United States of America or South Korea, though countries like India, Germany and France were represented. Read the full New York Times piece here.

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