"The task set before the cinema today is one of contributing to people's development into true communists... This historic task requires, above all, a revolutionary transformation of the practice of directing."
That's from the preface of On the Art of Cinema (1973) by Kim Jong-il, North Korea's Dear Leader, who, as you'll have heard by now, died this weekend at the age of 69. His "love of the cinema bordered on the obsessive," notes the BBC in its obituary. "He is said to have collected a library of 20,000 Hollywood movies…. In 1978, he ordered the abduction of a South Korean film director, Shin Sang-ok and his actress wife Choi Eun-hee. They were held separately for five years before being reunited at a party banquet. They said afterwards that Mr Kim had apologized for the kidnappings and asked them to make movies for him. They completed seven before escaping to the West in 1986."
That's the short version. Shin told the full story, or at least his full story, in a memoir, Kingdom of Kim, which John Gorenfeld read and reported on for Salon in 2003. If you're looking for a wild read to start the week with, go with that one. And for more on Kim's theory of cinema, see Andrew Grant's 2006 review of On the Art. Updates: The BBC follows up with a brief history of Kim's cinephilia.
And many thanks to Florian for pointing us to this:
And finally for now, a recommended read: Evan Osnos on Kim and what might happen now in North Korea and the region for the New Yorker today.
Wait, there's more after all. According to Grady Hendrix, "for the greatest insight into Kim Jong-Il's movie-watching habits, you have to read Trashfilm Roadshows by Johannes Schoenherr, a West German punk and film exhibitor (here's a review of his book and here's an open letter from Schoenherr himself about North Korea). After being approached by North Korean spies to provide them with 35mm prints to slake the Great Leader's thirst for new movies, Schoenherr got himself invited to North Korea a couple of times and his book is the best account of the North Korean film industry I've read. What it lacks in depth it more than makes up for by being bizarrely entertaining." Also: "The best site in English about North Korean movies is the beautifully-named, North Korean Films."
Lists. Luke McKernan looks back "on another year reporting on the world of early and silent film" at the Bioscope.
Novelist Dennis Cooper lists his "favorite music, books, films, art, and sites for 2011." Right back at you, sir.
Jeffrey M Anderson puts Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life at the top of his "2011: The Year's Best Films" list, while, in the Independent, Jonathan Romney, looking back on the year's highs and lows, calls it "the least good masterpiece in recent memory."
Listening (55'30"). Robert Horton, Kathleen Murphy and Richard T Jameson discuss the "Movies of 2011" on KUOW, Puget Sound Public Radio.
In the works. "Argentine director Pablo Cesar's new film project is about the iconic Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore's 'intimate but platonic' relationship with Argentine feminist writer, literary magazine editor and cultural activist, Victoria Ocampo," reports Saibal Chatterjee for the BBC. "The crux of the film, Thinking of Him, hinges on Tagore's 1924 Argentine sojourn during which he forged a deep emotional bond with Ocampo."
San Francisco. The program for Noir City, running January 20 through 29, is set.
New York. Sanja Iveković: Sweet Violence, on view at MoMA through March 26, is the "first museum exhibition in the United States of the work of Sanja Iveković (b. 1949, Zagreb) [and] covers four decades of the artist's remarkable career. A feminist, activist, and video pioneer, Iveković came of age in the post-1968 period, when artists broke free from mainstream institutional settings, laying the ground for a form of praxis antipodal to official art. Part of the generation known as the Nova Umjetnička Praksa (New Art Practice), Iveković produced works of cross-cultural resonance that range from conceptual photomontages to video and performance."