Watch and Learn: Film Festival Sheds Light on North Korea

The Network for North Korean Democracy and Human rights
assisted in organizing the 4th Annual North Korean Human Rights International
Film Festival [NHIFF] on September 26th and 27th. The Ministry of Security and
Public Administration and Somang Church sponsored the event, for which the
slogan was, “4th Annual NHIFF for a Generation Preparing for Unification”.

As many as 270 people attended the opening ceremony and film
screening that took place at the Seoul Museum of History; over 800 people
reserving seats for selected screenings that were held at Indie Space in
Gwanghwamun on Friday and Saturday.

Kim Mi Ri, Management Officer for the NHIFF and Team Manager
for the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights [NKnet], was in
charge of the operations for this year’s 4th Annual NHIFF, for which
preparations have been ongoing since January. While Kim’s overall role for the
film festival included screening selection, invitations, preparation for the
opening ceremony, and public promotion, Dan Bielefeld assisted in promoting the
event to international audiences.

Daily NK spoke with Kim, who expressed that the main goal of
the festival was to serve as a mediator to bring the harsh realities of subjects such as human rights in North Korea to light, but without people feeling intimidated or burdened to discuss them.

Although the NHIFF staff is relentless in its efforts to
make the situation North Korean human rights violations and the unification
issue in the Korean peninsula known on a global scale, Kim revealed that the
sad truth is there really are not too many films being produced about these
issues. In 2013, among 183 films that were reviewed for selection for the
NHIFF, only two related to North Korea, actions films involving spies, were

Each year, film producers send a short clip from their film
to enter a contest to be selected for support in film production for the NHIFF.
While the contest is judged by a panel of actual movie directors, usually two to
five films are selected. However, this year, as many as 14 films were selected
for production support and screened at this year’s NHIFF.

The most salient moment for this year’s film festival was
the opening ceremony, which began with opening remarks from Eun Sang Lee
and Man Sik Jeong, director and lead actor of The Threshold Of Death,
respectively. This was followed by speeches from North Korean defectors and
the screening of the film.

Kim said that it was difficult for her to choose a single
film as her favorite because she enjoyed them all, but was most fond of “The Threshold of Death” because she much of the
content evolve during the production process. Issues such as second generation
displaced persons, illegal immigrant workers, and multicultural families covered in the film held significant meaning for her. This sentiment seems to be shared by many of the festival-goers: it was one of the films garnering the highest attendance at the festival,
followed by “The Apostle” and “Our Family.”

After watching the movies at the 4th Annual NHIFF, the
participants were very thankful to the NHIFF staff for providing the opportunity to shares these films with family and friends, and to learn more about the reclusive
nation of North Korea. Prior to attending the festival, some viewers were not at all familiar with the human
rights violations taking place there and were shocked to find out the severity of the situation. Some
even inquired about where and how they could conduct volunteer work.
Although the issues with North Korea are very serious and difficult to address,
viewers greatly increased their knowledge and interest about them through this event.

Looking forward, Kim would like to include more movies from
abroad that relate to North Korean human rights infringements and unification
for next year’s film festival. She also intends to further research how to
captivate an even larger audience for the 5th Annual NHIFF.