The Tumen River marks part of the boundary between North Korea and China. The Tumen, an icy river that is frozen for many months of the year, divides the hungry from the poor. Crossing it is dangerous, not merely because of the brittle ice on its surface, but also on account of the heavily armed soldiers that patrol the North Korean border. In spite of this, the Chinese claim that over 400,000 Koreans have already crossed the Tumen hoping to find happiness in China. Many North Koreans only come to find food for their families. One such North Korean is the boy that twelve-year-old Chang-ho befriends. The boy is the same age as Chang-ho; he makes the crossing regularly to look after his sick sister. This illegal border trade is by no means viewed favourably by everyone in China. And there’s certainly no messing with the human traffickers who make a living from the poorest of the poor. The Chinese children are the only ones who make friends with the North Korean border-crossers; they play football and share what little food they have with them. Chang-ho’s mute sister Soon-hee also begins looking after her brother’s North Koreans friend and soon they all spend time together. Loudspeakers blare out announcements that punishment awaits those who fraternise with the Koreans. Life at the Tumen River is dangerous and can be cruel. There was a time when a bridge spanned the river and North Koreans and Chinese could pay each other visits. There’s only one old woman who can remember this time. She dreams of being able to cross over once more during her lifetime. –Berlinale
ZHANG Lu was born in 1962 in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China. In 2001, he directed his first short film ‘Eleven’(2001), which was selected for many international film festivals including the Venice International Film Festival; Short Film Competition, the Busan Asian Short Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. His first feature film ‘Tang Poetry’(2004) was selected for the Locarno International Film Festival in 2004, and his next film ‘Grain in Ear’(2005) won the New Currents Award at the Pusan International Film Festival in 2005. After that, he directed ‘Hyazgar’(2007). Filmed in the Mongolian desert, it tells the story of a mother and son who have escaped from North Korea. Also completed in 2007 was the short film ‘Fact’.
His recent films ‘Chongqing’(2008) and ‘Iri’(2008) are currently planned to be released, and he is now preparing for his new film ‘Dooman River’ about a boy who escaped from North Korea and a Korean-Chinese girl. ZHANG Lu… read more
In this area, the artist's voice is silenced. In this area, the dear leader's depiction causes the rape of art. Propaganda kills art not for what it is, but for what it causes its people to do. Life is reducible to a mantra of misery, but that misery is itself layered, difficult. No easy answers, for the questions themselves are stunningly complex. Is my full belly more important than anyone else's?