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British Documentary Filmmaker Hailed in NK

2004/10/14 | 106 views | Permalink | Source

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British documentary director Daniel Gordon said that his documentary films don't have opinions, just facts.
Gordon is one of the most noticeable directors in this year's Pusan International Film Festival, which will end on Friday. His work, "A State of Mind", vividly shows the life of the North Korean people through mass calisthenics, a symbol of North Korean collectivism. The film has drawn so much attention that it sold out even before the film festival opened.

Gordon is puzzled by the popularity. He said that he had merely seen, filmed and talked about what actually happens.

Gordon's work, however, presents many scenes that have not been seen in other documentaries about North Korea. His film depicts the everyday life of North Koreans by telling the story of calisthenics performers Park Hyun-soon and Kim Song-yeon, and their families.

A scene from 'A State of Mind'

Hyun-soon's mother says that on her eldest daughter's birthday, she made corn soup and gave the daughter one bowl of soup, while the rest of the family each had half a bowl of soup. The narrator of the film says that North Korean families have radios with only one channel and that the families are only permitted to lower the volume and not to turn them off completely. The film describes the two performers who train in mass calisthenics every day with the expectation that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will visit. Gordon says in the beginning of the film that the documentary is a story about North Korea, the most isolated, secretive and hermetic country in the world. For him, all of these are facts, not criticism.

Gordon began to film documentaries on North Korea because of his love of football. He is such a football buff that he can re-enact the goal celebration of Korean footballer Ahn Jung-Hwan and says that he would not exchange football for anything. Two years ago, he produced the documentary, "The Game of their Lives", depicting the North Korean football team's win over Italy to advance to the quarterfinals at the London World Cup in 1966. Gordon says that North Korea's sole broadcast station has aired the film ten times and that he is treated like a hero in North Korea, even though he had never heard of late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung before he visited North Korea. Gordon says that the North Korean government had provided him with full support during the filming of "A State of Mind" in the North from February to September.

A poster of the North Korean mass calisthenics is printed on Gordon's business card. With a smile, Gordon explains that the poster doesn't have any political aims and is just for promotional purposes. After the film festival ends, he will visit Seoul and go on a tour to the Demilitarized Zone. Gordon says that, except for badges depicting Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, North Koreans are ordinary people and it is important to understand them from a neutral perspective. Gordon plan is to make a documentary film on the South Korean football team, which advanced to the semifinals at the 2002 World Cup.

Jang Jun-seong

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