Monday, September 24, 2007

Portrait of the dictator as cinephile

It should come as no surprise that even dictators have hobbies, so it should come as no surprise that being a dictator allows one to pursue a hobby to extraordinary lengths. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il is reportedly one of the biggest movie buffs on the planet, with a collection of over 20,000 foreign films in his library. Of course, like any true dictator, Lil' Kim is not content to merely watch movies when he could try his hand at making them.

In 1978 during his father's reign, Kim Jong-Il arranged for the kidnapping of an extremely famous and well respected South Korean director, Shin Sang-Ok, during a business trip Hong Kong. When Shin's ex-wife went to Hong Kong to investigate his disappearance, she too was kidnapped by North Korean secret police and spirited off to Pyongyang. To Shin's horror, the junior Kim turned out to be a fan, and naturally, put Shin to work on his pet projects.

It seems that Kim had been disappointed with North Korea's staid and boring propaganda films bureau, and sought to bring his tastes as a movie buff into promoting North Korean Normally, the phrase "socialist cinema" conjures images of movies about nickel smelting and tractors, so you can imagine the horror the "Orson Welles of South Korea" must have felt when Kim Jong-Il announced that his new captive would be directing North Korea's most ambitious project to date: a Communist reworking of the Japanese monster movie Godzilla. Shin gamely went ahead and produced Kim's monster movie, but was thrown into a North Korean prison camp for trying to escape. Shin and his ex-wife finally managed to escape in a daring flight from their North Korean guards during a business trip to Vienna, after which, the director was finally free to talk about their ordeal, both physical and artistic, under Kim Il-Sung.

Kim Jong-Il has remained committed to the arts, however, and is reported to shunt aside lesser concerns like famines, floods, and nuclear proliferation talks aside for his real passion: film. He hasn't apparently kidnapped any other famous directors, but now one of South Korea's hottest directors is offering to bring his hit movie to North Korea on the condition that Kim shares his creation with the people of North Korea.

The offer may be tempting, but I'd be willing to bet that Kim will take a pass on this offer. After all, he can always wait until it comes out on DVD, right?


beakerkin said...

Maybe Ted Turner can save millions by leting this dope quit his day job and program movies for TNT

Michael said...

...and, in hiring 'lil Kim, add a fellow Communist to the payroll...