Crossing, Jumping, and Flying: North Korean Mobility in Films

September 6, 2014 - September 7, 2014, 12:30 P.M. - 8:00 P.M.

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Crossing, Jumping, and Flying:
North Korean Mobility in Films

September 6th & 7th, 2014

The Ray Stark Theater – SCA 108
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007


About the Event

North Korea has been an imaginary realm in popular culture, stirring up political projections and perplexed questions. For instance, in contemporary Hollywood blockbusters, North Korea and its leader serve well enough for a vicious “axis of evil” in the world order. One of the most interesting figurations of North Korea is in the most recent Hollywood film World War Z., which describes North Korean people as zombies without fangs; North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun, upon encountering the epidemic catastrophe of zombie attacks, orders that all citizens’ teeth will be extracted within 24 hours. This representation of North Korea as an undead and alienated entity is problematic.

The two-day film event on North Korea and its people in a state of flux will provide Southern Californian audiences with the opportunity for perceiving the dynamic approaches to North Korea, from the change in public sentiment toward North Korea to discourses on reunification and refugees. Five films, which are either collaborations or independent work, come from diverse places such as North Korea, Europe, China, or Korea, were selected particularly because they focus on the movement in and out of North Korea. Across the various borders of class, gender, territory, and nationality, these films counter the petrified representation of North Korean people and allow us to see their lives and the possibility of changes in North Korea through the cinematic movements of crossing, jumping, and flying.

The event is hosted by the USC Korean Studies Institute, sponsored by the USC Cinematic Arts and USC East Asia Studies Center.

Film List

Comrade Kim Goes Flying
(Kim Gwang Hun, Nicholas Bonner, and Anja Daelemans, 2012, 89 min)

Shot in Pyongyang, with a North Korean cast and crew, Comrade Kim Goes Flying is a co-production film from Belgium, United Kingdom, and North Korea. This first Western-financed fiction feature shows a tale of a beautiful coal miner who dreams of becoming a circus trapeze artist. Far removed from North Korean propagandas, according to its British co-director Nick Bonner, the film is “light, refreshing, fun romantic comedy” about “girl power.” The film had its world premiere in Pyongyang, was selected for the Toronto film festival and the Busan film festival and is widening its audiences in the US as well as in Europe.


Dooman River
(Zhang Lu, 2009, 90min)

Dooman River is a contemplative description of young North Korean refugees, filmed by Zhang Lu, who was once a professor of Chinese Literature at Yanbian University and is now aninternationally acclaimed filmmaker. The film depicts the friendship between two boys; Jeong-jin on the North Korean side crosses the river to get food for his ailing brother and meets Chang-ho who lives on the China side. Director Lu’s poignant long-take captures the stream of emotion under the hardship of their lives just like water still runs underneath the frozen surface of Dooman River. 


Secretly, Greatly
(Jang Cheol-soo, 2013, 123min)

Secretly, Greatly is a 2013 South Korean comic action film, based on the a popular webtoon series, in which North Korean spies are dispatched to a shabby town in Korea as a village idiot, a rock musician, and a high school student. They gradually assimilate into the peaceful, ordinary life of their neighborhood but complications arise when after a sudden regime change in Pyongyang, their mission turns out to be an order to commit suicide. Then, the film’s comical tone gradually gives way to increasingly tragic final moments.


(Jun Jai-hong, 2011, 121min)

Poongsan, written and co-produced by Kim Ki-duk and directed by Juhn Jai-hong, delivers a story of a mysterious messenger, simply known as “Poongsan,” who crosses the demarcation line between the two Koreas within three hours. Making regular trips across the DMZ, Poongsan delivers letters and cherished memorabilia to separated families in North and South Korea. Things take an unexpected turn when he is commissioned with the task of bring a young woman from Pyongyang to her lover, a high-ranking North Korean official who recently defected. In spite of a low budget, the film features astonishing wire actions that include the transcendental leap over the dividing barbed-wire fence in the DMZ. 


Flower Girl
(Choe Ik-kyu, 1972, 126 min)

Based on a Revolutionary Opera officially written by Kim Il-sung, The Flower Girl is one of the greatest of North Korean films and a classic of Socialist Realism.  The story is set in the 1930s during the Japanese colonial occupation and concerns a poor family who resist their victimization by the occupying forces and their domestic landlord collaborators.  The film was, of course, immensely popular in North Korea, but also in the People’s Republic of China and other Eastern Bloc countries in the mid-1970s, winning the special prize at the 1972 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Hong Yong-hee, the actress who plays the flower girl herself, appears on one of the North Korean banknotes.


Film Festival Schedule

DAY ONE: Film screenings
Saturday, September 6, 2014

  • 12:30 pm — 3:00 pm: Dooman River (Zhang Lu, 2010, 90 min)
  • 3:15 pm — 5:20 pm: Poonsan (Jun Jaihong, 2011, 121 min)
  • 5:30 pm — 7:40 pm: Secretly, Greatly (Jang Cheol-soo, 2013, 123 min)

DAY TWO: Film screenings & panel discussion
Sunday, September 7, 2014

  • 12:30 pm – 2:40 pm: Flower Girl (Choe Ik-kyu, 1972, 126 min)
  • 2:50 pm – 3:00 pm: Introduction for Director Nicholas Bonner and Director Anja Daelemans
  • 3:00 pm — 4:30 pm: Comrade Kim Goes Flying (Kim Gwang Hun, Nicholas Bonner, and Anja Daelemans, 2012, 89min)
  • 4:40 pm — 6:30 pm: Panel Discussion

Moderator: David James (USC)


  • Director Nicholas Bonner
  • Director Anja Daelemans
  • David Kang (USC)
  • Suk-young Kim (UC Santa Barbara)
  • Young-min Choe (USC)

6:30 pm — 8:00 pm: Reception at Ahn House

Directors' Biographies


Nicholas Bonner trained first as a Countryside Ranger, and then as a Landscape Architect. He never imagined he would spend 20 years of his life living in Beijing and visiting North Korea nearly every month.

After a study visit to Asia in 1993, he became so fascinated with North Korea that together with his colleague Joshua Green, they set up Koryo Group - a company specializing in cultural exchanges with North Korea. In 2001, Daniel Gordon approached him about a documentary on the 1966 North Korean World Cup football heroes who defeated the favored Italy team by of a score of 1-0, but were never seen again. The players were ultimately found and the film entitled The Game of Their Lives was made in 2002 based on that incredible story. The film took the North Korean players back to the UK to visit the exact site of that historic victory. Two additional documentaries followed - A State of Mind (2004) and Crossing the Line (2006).


  • Aim High in Creation (associate producer, 2013)
  • Crossing the Line (co-producer, 2006)
  • A State of Mind (associate producer, 2004)
  • The Game of Their Lives (associate producer, 2002)


Anja Daelemans graduated from film school in Brussels as a radio and television director, but soon moved over to producing instead of directing. Her experience in film and television production is extremely impressive.

Currently, she is working as a drama consultant on a number of fiction television series. In 1996 she founded the production company Another Dimension of an Idea and began producing projects in 2001. The mission of Another Dimension of an Idea is to produce creative projects meeting high standards of quality and value. To date her company has won 61 awards through the international film festival circuit. But, the highlights of her career are the two Academy Award® nominations for the short films Fait d’Hiver and Tanghi Argentini. Most recently, her desire to direct films returned, and Comrade Kim goes Flying is her feature directorial debut.


  • Dennis P. (co-producer, 2007)
  • Tanghi argentini (producer, 2006)
  • Off Screen (co-producer, 2005)
  • Alias (executive producer, 2002)
  • Gridlock (producer, 2001)
  • Oh My God?! (producer, 2001)
Contact Information

Name: Elaine Kim