DMZ film festival in limelight as it coincides with summit

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This year’s DMZ International Film Festival has been in the limelight due to its rare overlapping with the inter-Korean summit that began on Tuesday.  Opening last Thursday, the film festival has screened 142 documentaries from 39 countries. Some of the films were shot in or feature topics related to North Korea.  The week-long film fest will finish on Thursday, the same day the three-day summit will be finished.  Festival organizers have hopes that the rare coincidence of the two events could stir the Korean public to take more interest in the film festival.  They also pinned hopes that the summits can benefit the festival as more films are likely to be shot in North Korea in case the summit paves the way for cultural exchanges between the two Koreas.

“As a person working in the film industry, I can say we have high expectations about North Korea’s well-preserved cultural heritage,” Jung Sang-jin, vice chief executive of DMZ International Documentary Film Festival, said in a recent interview with The Korea Times. “If given an opportunity, we would like to visit historic sites in North Korea and speak with historians and artists there who are familiar with those sites. If this happens, who knows, maybe we will ultimately be able to shoot films in North Korea.”

The film festival organizers were determined to host some special events, including the special forum “Clues to the Divided Nation; Communicating through Documentary” on Tuesday. Park, a film director who has filmed documentary films in both South and North Korea, was invited for the session. At the forum, Park spoke about her experiences with documentary filmmaking in North Korea and shared her thoughts with the participants about the possibility of the two Koreas’ cooperation in filmmaking.

“Documentaries are a record of history,” Jung said. “I think filmmakers have relatively easier access to North Korea when they shoot documentaries, rather than commercial films. If more documentaries featuring North Korea can be screened at the DMZ film festival, I think this will help the younger generation take a deeper interest in North Korea.” She claimed the summits have raised hopes for peace. South and North Korea are technically at war as the truce was signed after the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.  Started in 2009, the DMZ film festival has been held annually for a week in the border city of Paju, Gyeonggi Province, near the military demarcation line. Films featuring the topics of “peace, coexistence and reconciliation” have been screened during the festival.

The festival will also introduce some works by local and international filmmakers. Jee Hye-won’s “Coming to You, Minu” was the opening film of the 10th edition of the DMZ film festival. The film is about a Nepalese immigrant named Minu, a vocalist of the band Stopcrackdown who also fights for human rights of immigrant workers.

This year’s film festival highlighted issues such as racial discrimination, migrant workers and refugees.  Bok Jin-oh’s film “Log Book” gains attention from audiences at the festival as it highlights the sinking of the passenger ferry Sewol. The film revolves around the divers who performed rescue operations after the ferry capsized in the waters off the southwestern port city of Jindo in 2014.

By Kang Aa-young
(Korea Times)

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