Belgian Director and Producer Anja Daelemans talks about her latest feature film “Comrade Kim Goes Flying”. We speak about professional and personal experiences in a country on the edge of the West’s field of sight and the film’s objectives.
During the Discovery Zone Luxembourg City Film Festival we had the chance to meet Anja Daelemans, one of the three directors and producer of the feature film “Comrade Kim Goes Flying”. The movie which was entirely shot in North Korea and which is screened in Korean already toured the world and was featured at a dozen of film festivals. This picture out of the ordinary was part of the “Special Screenings” section in Luxembourg. We asked to Anja Daelemans what rendered it so special.
Grrrrr.eu : Good Afternoon, Mrs Daelemans, could you please describe your contribution to the selection of the Festival Discovery Zone?
AD : “Comrade Kim goes Flying” is a fictional movie produced in three countries, Belgium, UK and North Korea.
Grrrrr.eu : It is rather special to have a North Korean movie screened in the West, can you provide some context for us?
AD : There’s absolutely no political intention in the movie. It was realized all by coincidence. Initially we [Nicholas Bonner (UK), Ryom Mi Hwa (DPRK) and Anja Daelemans (BE)] wanted to make a short film. As we worked together so well this idea became bigger and bigger and suddenly we had almost a script for a feature film which we gave to North Korean comedy script writers. They finalized it, wrote the dialogue and jokes et cetera. We had three years of scriptwriting and conceptualizing, afterwards one year of shooting and two years of postproduction. It is the first time ever that the North Koreans allowed a movie to be edited in abroad.
“We wanted a fairy tale”
Grrrrr.eu : So the movie is an apolitical comedy?
AD : Right from the start we avoided politics, violence, sex, blood, drugs… Our movie is supposed to make people laugh. Entertainment was our only objective. We wanted a fairy tale, we wanted circus and we wanted a female heroine.
Grrrrr.eu : Was the content influenced by political constraints in North Korea?
AD : No. I met Nick [Nicholas Bonner] at the Pyongyang International Film Festival, where we also got to know the North Korean Producer Ryom Mi Hwa. We all simply love films so we decided to shoot a comedy.
Grrrrr.eu : So there were no obstacles at all?
AD : No, since we avoided violence and politics and made a fairy tale. We were our own censors, in a way. Of course they stamped the script. But after that there was no influence of the authorities. At least, as far as I know.
Grrrrr.eu : And what about the North Korean crew, was the collaboration easy?
AD : It was a big struggle. This was due to some cultural differences, but mainly because of the language barrier. So at the beginning we had a translator which was very tiring but finally worked. We worked on the script together. [The North Korean director] Kim Gwang Hun was in charge of the entire shooting in North Korea; the whole crew was North Korean as well. The editing took place in Beijing where all three of us directors worked together again.
“North Koreans love going to the cinema”
Grrrrr.eu : This opening towards the rest of the world which is symbolized through the international team that worked on the film, will it continue?
AD : Of course I don’t have a glass sphere in which I can see the future. I have no idea. After our collaboration there’s one thing however, which I can tell you for sure: The North Korean are as passionate about filmmaking as we are in the West.
Grrrrr.eu : How did you personally experience North Korea?
AD : I was there in total eight times. Being there as a tourist is simply a totally new, unknown experience. It is strange, it’s different. But the people there are so warmhearted and welcoming. I got to see they’re like you and me. They love going to the cinema to watch a good movie.
Grrrrr.eu : So is the final picture truly a feature film for a North Korean audience?
AD : At the film festival in Tromsø two girls asked me if the North Koreans had humor, or if all the jokes were by us. When you see the movie, you will realize that yes, indeed North Koreans, they have humor. The jokes are originally by them, we never could have come up with these. There funny in the West, too, maybe because of their particularity. Right from the beginning we wanted to make a movie for the North Korean audience and not to put too much Western influence in it.
But here in the West the people seem to like it as well; we have a positive resonance at the film festivals.
Grrrrr.eu : What are your future plans? Will you realize a similar project?
AD : I don’t know. I really stumbled in to this project and then it lasted for six years. I have no new script ready for a movie in North Korea. I am a filmmaker. I can make movies anywhere in the world.
Grrrrr.eu : Mrs Daelemans, Thank you very much for these insights in your feature film and good luck for your next project!
For those of you who want more information on the film : www.comradekimgoesflying.com