Scottish film on show at Pyongyang Film Festival

North Korea celebrates both home-grown and western films.

by Jennie Kermode

The idea of holding a film festival in one of the most culturally isolationist countries on Earth might seem bizarre, but this year's Pyongyang event, which opened yesterday, is giving North Koreans their best chance yet to see foreign films on the big screen. One of its most eagerly anticipated choices is Scottish romantic comedy The Decoy Bride, with Doctor Who star David Tennant.

Although former North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il was famous for his love of cinema, once going so far as to kidnap his favourite South Korean auteur and force him to make monster movies, the changes in the festival actually have more to do with his successor, Kim Jong Un, who has been working to strengthen cultural ties between the hermit kingdom and the outside world. In particular, Kim Jong Un has worked with China, and groundbreaking North Korean-Chinese co-production Meet In Pyongyang will also feature at the event.

Romance films are particularly popular in North Korea, both in cinemas and in the pirate DVD trade. The only Western films legally available to buy in the country are Disney films, of which Kim Jong Un is said to be a particular fan. Homegrown romcom Comrade Kim Goes Flying is expected to be one of the most popular films at the festival, but French and German romances will also be screening. Outdoor screens will make the festival accessible for free to those elite North Koreans who have access to the showcase capital.

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