Deflection and Contradiction in a North Korean Comedy-Romance Film: A Critical Appraisal of “Comrade Kim Goes Flying”


This oral presentation critically appraises the film "Comrade Kim Goes Flying", which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and is prominently billed at its promotion website as 'A Belgium, UK, and North Korea Co-Production.' Despite codirection, coproduction, financing, and overseas editing by two Western Europeans who intended a 'girl power' comedy-romance about 'individual perseverance,' the film is substantially a North Korean work: written, revised, approved, produced, directed, and acted by highly connected North Koreans in the national capital of Pyongyang. Consequently, and notwithstanding the claim of the foreign promoters that "Comrade Kim Goes Flying" is 'North Korea's first 'girl power' movie,' the motion picture is actually quite similar to conventional North Korean narratives about hardworking, persevering women: in this case a rural coal miner and model worker in her late twenties who desires to be a trapeze artist in the elite Pyongyang Circus. Satisfying the ideological and political requirements of North Korean socialist realism, also known as Juche realism, the cheerful, formulaic, uncritical film contrives an imaginary and make-believe North Korea where 'anything is possible.' As the comedy-romance deflects reality and embodies official party-state values and norms in a fulsome merry way, the film ultimately belies the alleged 'girl power' theme in its saccharine representations of real-life contradictions in the uneven society: namely, the existence of class, regional, and vocational prejudices and the sanctioning presence of male authority in family, work, and interpersonal relations.

Author Information
Alzo David-West, Matsuyama University, Japan
Youngmi Lim, Shinshu University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2018
Stream: Film Criticism and Theory

This paper is part of the MediAsia2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon