The Juche Film Series
at 51 3rd Street in lucky Troy, New York

2007 Schedule
Sunday February 11 (7pm): Double Feature: Four Seasons of Pyongyang & Urban Girl Comes to Get Married
Sunday February 25 (7pm): Marathon Runner
Sunday March 11 (7pm): Pulgasari
Sunday March 25 (7pm): Girls from My Hometown
Sunday April 1 (7pm): Double Feature: Million Man Parade & Arirang Mass Games

Juche (chuch'e) is Kim Il Sung’s philosophy based on Marxism, Confucianism, and self-reliance. It became the official ideology of North Korea during the 60s when the Cultural Revolution Maoists were calling North Korea a revisionist state, the Soviets considered it a Stalinist state, and the U.S. was technically (and still is) at war with it. In the 80s to smooth the transition of power Juche developed into a family cult to include his son Kim Jong Il. After the father's death in Juche 82 (1994), his first wife and Kim Jong Il’s mother Kim Jong Suk was also included in the pantheon. Juche is about community, serving and respecting the state and not being tempted by the sneaky capitalist ideology of individualism or the temptation of revisionism. Watch for the little Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il buttons that everyone wears like American politicians with their flag pins.

The films are pretty amazing: Socialist realist musical melodrama. In some ways, they are like Stalinist Lifetime movies for women, but the stories always have strange twists. The drama of a feature film is well suited to express the Marxist dialectic of the struggle of class contradictions. There is always a new setback and the only way to solve it is through the collective wisdom of the people or through the example of the hardest working man in socialism, the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il who is the James Brown, Jesus and Richard Nixon of North Korea.

The schedule for the series will be roughly every other Sunday except for the April screenings. This could change so check the website. The admission cost is 50 cents. There will be a plastic pig on the piano—please place the money in the pig. Popcorn and a chair are provided with the entrance cost but please bring your own liquid refreshments.

For the opening of the series, we'll have a double feature in honor of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il's birthday. Later in the spring, we will have something special for the Great Leader and Eternal President Kim Il Sung's birthday as well—known in the capitalist imperialist U.S. as tax day: April 15. On this day in 1912 Kim Il Sung was born (and the Titanic sunk). That was Year One in the Juche Calendar. So 2007 is known in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as Juche 95 though generally they put the Western year afterwards in parentheses.


In capitalist society the director is shackled by the reactionary governmental policy of commercializing the cinema and by the capitalists' money, so that he is a mere worker who obeys the will of the film-making industrialists whether he likes it or not. In socialist society, by contrast, the director is an independent and creative artist who is responsible for the quality of the cinema to the Party and the people. Therefore, in the socialist system of film-making, the director is not a mere worker who makes films but the commander, the chief who assumes full responsibility for everything, ranging from the film itself to the political and ideological life of those who take part in film-making.

ON THE ART OF CINEMA, Kim Jong Il, Juche 77 (1989)


First up is Pyongyang in Four Seasons, a 37-minute documentary about the wonders of the North Korean capital. Rebuilt after the US bombs completely demolished it during the Korean War, it has become the showplace for the government. Unfortunately, many of the most impressive buildings are either empty or sparsely populated. It is a sort of massive Potemkin village since the citizens of Pyongyang are basically the best off in the state. Besides the military and party elite, the urbanites generally come from families with good revolutionary or at least class backgrounds

The main feature is a Juche romantic comedy called Urban Girl Comes to Get Married (80 min, 1992) about a girl from Pyongang who visits the countryside and falls in love with a duck farmer. Highlights include the amazing theme song and a lounge-rock bonfire jam. A bit slow and strangely filmed with many zooms, the film —made by students at Kim Il Sung University with the guidance of their professors—does impart real emotion and you do find yourself loving the strange duck-loving country folk. Kim Jong Il claims this is one of his favorite North Korean films. His love affair with Bond films reportedly came to an end when Pierce Brosnan ran amok in the DPRK.


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Like the leading article of the Party paper, the cinema should have great appeal and move ahead of the realities. Thus, it should play a mobilizing role in each stage of the revolutionizing struggle.



Marathon Runner (80 min, 2002), a favorite film of the Dear Leader, was reportedly personally commissioned by him. It tells the true and very recent story of a women's marathon runner who did not win at the Atlanta Olympics. During a post-Olympic criticism session she blames her bad coaching and is then banished to the countryside to haul rocks with the communist peasants. The coach comes back and self-critically accepts her criticism and then the word comes that Kim Jong Il wants the whole team back again for the World Championships in Athletics in Seville. But struggle is necessary to the Juche film and so it gets harder and harder but the ending which may or may not involve a nuclear weapon is quite extraordinary.


We will show a couple of Military Karaoke videos before the feature. Perhaps the real reason the Bushies negotiated an aid deal with North Korea.






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One day an official of the Central Committee of the Worker's Party of Korea was informed by an official of a film studio that an actor suddenly fell into a critical condition... The utmost efforts were made to resuscitate the actor who was marked by modern medicine for death. Meanwhile, Comrade Kim Jong Il telephoned the hospital every few minutes to get to know how the actor was being treated. He also obtained the best medicines and sent them.

Comrade Kim Jong Il's love was so great as to enable flowers to bloom even on stones and old trees. It turned into an elixir of life and finally snatched the actor from the jaws of death.

The actor is now on the wrong side of 60, but is so hale and hearty at present that he appears well on the screen. He takes every opportunity to say:

"When I left Seoul during the Korean war, my mother gave me nothing but a packet of soda, worrying about my stomach disorder. But Comrade Kim Jong Il restored me to life again when I was at death's door. I was reborn under his care."



Pulgasari (93 min, 1985) is known as the North Korean Godzilla. Instead of an atomic beast bent on mayhem, we have a medieval creature shaped from bean curd and rice by an imprisoned blacksmith. Add a drop of his beautiful daughter's blood and all the metal the creature can eat and it grows to help the oppressed peasants overthrow the corrupt rule of a Koryo Dynasty king. The story behind the film is even more amazing. The director Shin San Ok was kidnapped from South Korea along with his movie star wife Choi Eun Hie on the orders of Kim Jong Il. The Dear Leader was unhappy with the state of cinema in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and wanted the South Korean director to inject new life. He made films under a benevolent house arrest for 8 years until they escaped in 1986. Pulgasari was his last North Korean film and was not yet released when he fled so they changed the name of the director.

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Actors, too, should explore reality. Otherwise, they cannot accurately represent new characters in line with how people are changing and developing.



SUNDAY, MARCH 25 (7:00PM):
Girls from my Hometown (85 min, 1997) takes on a critical issue in Juche cinema: the disabled soldier. In this tale a happy country girl is singing in the woods with her friends when she hears an accident has blinded her soldier boyfriend. She refuses to see him and listens instead to her sister who has recently traveled abroad and has ideas of individualism. Her best friend takes it upon herself to take care of the soldier but he won't have it: the struggle begins! There is amazing music and women running after a bus waving (a common image in North Korean movies). But it's not just about lovers—all the women of the village are being shamed by the selfishness of one girl. A classic Juche melodrama with an amazing ad hoc criticism session at the finale.

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Films without music and song hardly deserve to be called films. A film without songs gives one a feeling of loneliness and is tantamount to a play with only dialogue. A truly fine film which will appeal to the people, must always have good songs.



*SUNDAY, APRIL 1 (7:00PM):
We will end the series with two films about the mass movement exercises that take place in North Korea. One of the ways the Kims have been able to maintain the state in a Juche mindset is through collective movement training. The precise movements of the military in Million Man Parade (48 minutes, 2003) are shown on US nightly news but not usually the flower-wielding women. The English narration is odd and charmingly manly.

*NOTE: This is one week after the March 25 screening.

The Arirang Mass Games (36 min, 1999) are unique to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Gymnasts with communist yoga balls and Kim Il Sung's smiling face on thousands of cards being turned at once to portray a pistol and ammunition clip. This is not CGI, folks. It's live action, and to get this many people to be in synch takes a lot of work and uses up a lot of excess energy that could be spent idly. This is in honor of the Eternal President's belated birthday who would be 95 this April.




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The Juche film series was curated by Jim Finn in the winter/spring of Juche 95 (2007) under the loving guidance of Rich Pell and with the great appreciative help of Jung Yoon Lee, Igor Vamos, Jesse Stiles, Chris Skinner, Cat Mazza and anyone else who vacuums, moves chairs, and heats popcorn.