Kim Jong Il Talks Film and Filmmaking, In His Own Words

How To Make A Movie

The late Kim Jong Il was so passionate about the North Korean film industry that, according to the BBC, he once kidnapped a South Korean director and his actress wife and forced them to make films for him, while also imprisoning them separately for over five years.

Talk about determination!

But aside from his extensive, personal movie collection, and his own iconic placements in Western cinema classics, Jong Il also fashioned himself as something of a film theorist. He wrote multiple books outlining his views on the cinema, beginning with "On The Art of Cinema" in 1973, and continuing up to "The Cinema and Directing," which was then translated into multiple languages, according to publishing notes from the Korean Friendship Association in 1987. His book is a sort of field guide for moviemakers in North Korea.

Some of Jong Il's most astute observations made in "The Cinema and Directing" have been outlined below:

On a director's job description:

"The director is the commander of the creative group. He should have the overall responsibility for artistic creation, production organization and ideological education and guide all the members of the creative team in film-making."

On comparing a film set to a warzone:

"Just as victory in battle depends on the leadership ability of the commander, so the fate of the film depends on the director's art of guidance."

On working well with others:

"In film directing, the basic factor is to work well with the artists, technicians, and production and supply personnel who are directly involved in film-making."

On the duty of the filmmakers as a whole:

"The basic duty of the creative group is to make revolutionary films of high ideological and artistic value, which make an effective contribution to arming people fully with the Party's monolithic ideology and which imbue the whole of society with the great Juche idea."

And why they shouldn't be vague:

"Artistic guidance to individual creative workers must always be specific. If the director only gives general guidance and indications, he cannot give them any substantial help or lead them confidently to achieve his aims."

On liking certain films better than other films:

"Seeing a production once is different from seeing it twice. One wants to see some productions again, but not others. A certain production awakens fresh interest each time one sees it and excites greater passion and warmth. This sort of production is called sincere art."

On reality and emotion:

"Not everything in life rouses the emotions amply because reality is the basis of emotion and emotion is a particular way of reflecting life."

On hooking the audience early:

"Emotions in a film should be defined so that they capture the hearts of the audience from the very first scene."

On avoiding the traps of star-casting:

"The director should not merely consider a few well-known actors, but should consider many others."

On looking beyond the actor's resume:

"It is true that actors should be prepared to portray any character at any time, but since every one of them has different creative individuality, he may be well-suited to one character but not to another."

On costume design:

"In a film about the life of a saleswoman, the heroine was made to change her clothes a number of times for no particular reason."

On what a cameraman can do with his or her camera:

"The cameraman is the creator of images who, with a cinematic eye, assesses the portrayal by the actor and the artistic interpretation to be projected onto the screen and finally captures them on film."

On when a film needs sound design:

"Sound and music are heard wherever nature works and man lives."

On appropriate times for a good tune:

"However excellent the music, it is useless for the cinema if it is not appropriate to each scene."

On the secret of editing:

"The secret of editing is to create diverse emotional changes, yet achieve a single cinematic flow in the film as a whole."

But editing is so much more than what you people think:

"Some people regard editing as a creative process that happens after filming. They are mistaken. Editing is by no means just cutting."

On incorrectly labeling the assistant director:

"It is wrong to regard the assistant director as a person who has failed to become a director or as a trainee director…Under the socialist system of film-making, the assistant director carries out in all matters the duties of a true assistant director."

On being satisfied with your job, overall:

"A true assistant director finds his creative work of loyally assisting the director in his creative activities worthwhile, so that the latter creates an excellent cinematic presentation."

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