Pyongyang International Film Festival

Pyongyang International Film Festival
Photo: PIFF
Although North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated and censored countries, it hosts a biennial international film festival. The Pyongyang International Film Festival (PIFF) takes place in North Korea’s capital in fall. It is one of the few North Korean functions that actively seeks connection with the outside world.

The inaugural Pyongyang International Film Festival was held in 1987 as the Pyongyang Film Festival of the Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries. As the name suggests, the main goal of the event was to encourage cultural exchange between members of the Non-Aligned Movement, i.e. countries that are not formally aligned with any major power bloc. The festival program included feature films, short films and documentaries that competed for a number of awards.

The second festival was held three years later, in 1990. Since then, it has taken place every other year. Its program mostly consists of North Korean films and foreign films about revolutionary resistance which are thoroughly selected by North Korean censors. However, there have been several exceptions throughout the history of the festival.

For instance, PIFF 2000 screened Japanese films for the first time when film director Yoji Yamada was invited to showcase six of this films. This was really remarkable because both North and South Korea have a strained relationship with Japan due to the Japanese colonial rule in Korea between 1910 and 1945.

In 2004, the festival screened a censored version of Bend It Like Beckham, which later became the first Western movie shown on North Korean television. In 2006, the Swedish comedy horror film Frostbite became the first foreign horror film to be screened in North Korea. Since the early 2000s, films from Western Europe have dominated the festival program. However, they undergo thorough selection (the selection committee favors films that emphasize family values) and are often censored.

The Pyongyang International Film Festival is structured like any other international film festival; it has competitive and non-competitive sections, and an international jury. The festival sections include Feature Film Competition, Documentary, Short Film and Animation Competition, Special Screening, Informative Screening, and Film Exchange. The winners of the festival's film competition in each category are awarded with the Torch Prize.

Pyongyang International Film Festival

Photo: Uri Tours




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