Ahead of its second screening tonight, co-director Nick Bonner told us more about the story behind how Comrade Kim finally went flying.
Comrade Kim Goes Flying is the story of a North Korean coal miner with aspirations to become a trapeze artist.
The individualist, girl power, dream-following trajectory is one that has never been seen before in North Korean cinema – so we caught up with one of its co-directors to find out more about how this curious film came about.
“I think it takes a bit of time," said Bonner, "for a Western audience to realise that this is the kind of film that, when you see it from a Western point of view, you don’t understand quite how far it’s pushing. It’s like a window opening up. It’s a story about an individual who wants to achieve her dreams and it’s incredible that it was eventually given permission to be shown in North Korea.“
So was it difficult to get around North Korea’s well-known government restrictions? "You’d imagine there would be enormous government restrictions, but in fact it was made according to the script we wanted. It was the first film to be edited outside of North Korea as well. It was filmed there, they knew what had been filmed, but it’s quite wild.”
“At the end of the day, we’re still filmmakers,” said Bonner. “Before this film they made propaganda films – that’s all they made – but they still make films. They’re very good at filmmaking in their own style. Some would call it a retro style."
Working with 2 other co-directors, production was a huge challenge for the filmmakers. “We didn’t want a Euro-mash, we wanted to make a North Korean film, so we found a North Korean director [Kim Gwang-hun]. He needed a pair of director’s eyes on set – and he speaks Korean while mine is very poor – so he and I worked together. The post-production was done by Anja [Daelemans], so we decided to put it that way and have 3 directors. The post- was such a big process. We actually took the North Koreans to Beijing for the rough cut. It wasn’t three people on set shouting instructions – that would be hell!”
“It’s a rather odd thing, to watch a romantic comedy that is made in North Korea, which makes it a curiosity. But now it’s gotten some great word of mouth and some great reviews. People can’t get their heads around seeing something that’s such a happy, candy-coloured fairytale, but without understanding that it wasn’t made for them. North Koreans know that this is a surreal story about girl power – so it’s quite wild for them."
So what will Western audiences get out of the film? “I think it shows a humanity," said Bonner. "People, no matter if they’re following the film or are not quite getting it but follow the story – it’s a story you and I both grew up with, it’s universal.”
“People go wanting to see a story about North Korea. It’s not, it’s a fictional film which is set there. It’s still fiction. But it’s very interesting to see – it’s great. It certainly leaves you with something to talk about at the end of it.”
You can visit the world of Comrade Kim for yourself. Comrade Kim Goes Flying screens tonight, Thursday 27 June, 8.35pm at Edinburgh Cineworld. Buy your tickets online, by phone on 0131 623 8030, or at any Film Festival Box Office.