|Name:||“The Lovers and the Despot“|
|Director, writer:||Ross Adam and Robert Cannan|
|Format:||1.85:1, much archival footage|
|When and how viewed:||Landmark E St, 2016/9/26. afternoon, small audience|
First, the threat of North Korea is dead serious. The DPRK does seem to have built a nuclear weapon that can be put on a missile. It probably could nuke South Korea now, and maybe Japan. In a few years, it might reach the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the US. Great circle maps have the longest missiles capable of reaching northern Michigan. Hopefully NORAD (“War Games”) would be ready.
And Km Song-Un has made plenty of blustery threats. At worst, he could be capable of making the moral pronouncements of the doomsday prepper crowd relevant. An attack against “just” to South could have enormous ramifications for the markets and could happen at any time.
In fact, during the 1990s, when I wrote my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book, it seemed that Korea was the most serious military issue we had. I wasn’t aware of the gravity of asymmetric terrorism yet,
So, yes, “The Lovers and the Despot”, by Ross Adam and Robert Cannan, is “another” documentary about the DPRK, a dicey thing ever since the country’s brazen bullying of Sony Pictures over “The Interview” at the end of 2014.
And the movie sets up an intriguing “story”, even if it is the politics that seems to matter now. In early 1978 – while I was living my last year in NYC and a most interesting time for me personally – Hong Kong was still under British rule (until 1997) and did not have the glitz of today (with the Mira Hotel where Snowden stayed). Filmmaker Shin and actress Choi have divorced, and during a stay in Hong Kong, Choi is lured to a “party” and kidnapped and taken to the DPTK. Shin follows to Hong Kong and gets kidnapped himself, and both wind up imprisoned in North Korea The kidnapping of Shin is not covered in as much detail.
Soon they learn that Kim Song Il (who has taken over from his father) wants the filmmakers to buff up the film industry of North Korea, which Shin would do. Under supervision, the couple, reunited, would be allowed to travel.
The film then moves to 1986, where, with a caper-like sequence worthy of Hitchcock, the couple, visiting Vienna, escapes to the US embassy and asks for asylum, which the Reagan administration quickly grants.
As for North Korea’s propaganda film industry, I recall seeing a horrible film “Flower Girl” at the Washington Square Methodist Church in New York City in the fall of 1974, shortly after moving into the City. A story about a girl getting medications for her mother, it was sing-song-y and boring, preachy, and endless.
Adam’s film mentions North Korea’s attempt to make a successor to “Titanic” long after Shin’s escape. But DPRK’s films have never gotten distribution outside the country
Adam also shows some of the cruelty of the regime (as have many other films). People are forced to weep in public at the passing of both leaders, in a parody of what I call “upward affiliation” (but then, again, Donald Trump provides another such parody).
But the most shocking idea is the kidnappings in a foreign, western-controlled country. We’ve heard about China kidnapping booksellers and writers today in Hong Kong and even Thailand. The couple in the film is from South Korea. But could something like that happen to am “ordinary” American journalist or even blogger? The conventional wisdom, is don’t visit authoritarian countries as a tourist unless you really know what you’re doing (the topic came up at a travel expo recently, writeup ). But could you really be “taken” anyway?
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Pyongyang by John Pavelka under CCSA 2.0
Second picture: about 15 homeless people camped out at McPherson Square Metro in downtown DC last night.
(Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 11 AM EDT)