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Journalists try to get behind the scenes of North Korean film studio

By VBS Staff
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North Korean leader 'bona fide cinephile'
  • Leader Kim Jong Il is a film buff who's said to have one of the largest collections in the world
  • VBS journalists try to get into the country's massive state-run production studio
  • Crew finds themselves spectators of the North Korean mass gymnastic games
  • North Korea
  • Movies
  • Pyongyang

Editor's note: The staff at has recently been intrigued by the journalism of Vice, an independent media company and Web site based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV is the broadband television network of Vice. The reports, which are produced solely by Vice, reflect a transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe that this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our readers.

Brooklyn, New York (VBS.TV) -- You could say North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has two primary obsessions.

The first would be maintaining the country's nuclear weapons capability as a means of protecting his "hermit kingdom" and thwarting pressure from the United States and other "hostile forces."

But a close second would be film. He loves movies. It's rumored that he has one of the largest private film collections in the world.

His favorite film is said to be "Gone With the Wind," and his favorite actress is Elizabeth Taylor. He's a film collector and bona fide cinephile, but he's also much more.

He's everything really: A director, a producer, a financier, a costume-maker, a set designer, a screenwriter, a cameraman and a sound engineer.

He's also a film theorist. His masterwork on aesthetics and practice is "On the Art of Cinema" (written and published in the early 1970s). In it, he gives himself the humble title, "Genius of the Cinema."

See the rest of The Vice Guide to Film: North Korea at VBS.TV

In this episode of the Vice Guide to Film, Vice founder Shane Smith and his behind-the-camera colleague Eddy Moretti visit North Korea with the goal of getting invited to the Korean Feature Film Studio.

It's the state-run film production facility west of Pyongyang. It's on a sprawling lot that at its height produced around 40 films a year. Today, no one is quite sure how many films are made there.

Posing as a fan of Arirang, the famous North Korean mass gymnastic games organized to showcase the talents of the country's youth, Shane enters North Korea and secures himself an invitation to the Pyongyang production studios.