Dictatorships have always understood the power of film, and made efforts to use it to their own ends. But even in the sordid history of such relationships, Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea stands as an outlier. In an excerpt from his book on Kim’s kidnapping and forced employment of South Korean actress Choi Eun-Hee and director Shin Sang-Ok, Paul Fischer recounts their surreal encounter with Kim as, surrounded by murals of his own film productions, the despot apologizes for their rough treatment (“there have been lots of misunderstandings”) and lays out the propaganda role they will play. (“So I was thinking—yes, only in my head—my intention was, well, I hadn’t talked to anyone about this… I thought, what people have mastered Western skills that we don’t have here… who could come here to produce something with my support?”) And while the Sony hacking drama—if indeed it can be placed at the feet of North Korea, as the US has claimed—suggests things haven’t gotten any better since Kim’s death, there is some cold comfort that his successors still seem to believe that films matter. Mark Seal has the fullest portrait yet of what was going on inside the studio from the first curious computer screens to the sick-making moment when the extent of the hack became clear. Via Longform.
Not that police states are the only place where you have to watch your back. The ending of Seal’s piece, with executive Amy Pascal embattled but holding on, took all of two days to become out of date.
Spinning off a series at the Film Society at Lincoln Center, Violet Lucca surveys New York’s independent (the point very much being that they had to be) black filmmakers of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s, including such innovative creators as Madeline Anderson, Bill Gunn, St. Clair Bourne, and the towering William Greaves, of whom Bourne claimed if the movement “were to be symbolized by a band… would be the bass.”