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‘Street to the Stars’ in North Korea

  ‘Street to the Stars’ – watching Sci-Fi in a North Korean cinema


The Kinks, “Groovy Films” (1968)

Generally I feel I am gonna higher myself,

Looking for acceptance on this massive, vast world.

Generally I feel I will not make it,

Taking part in in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

Generally I wanna be an image director,

And attempt to make the world perceive.

By making groovy films,


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Speaking of groovy films, I used to be just lately given a paper to learn by Dima Mironenko; North Koreans on the Films within the Nineteen Fifties and 60s (2016) which was fascinating sufficient, however what actually fascinated me was this {photograph} of the Taedongmun Cinema from 1959. It warranted a better look and revealed numerous layers of curiosity which I believed readers may get pleasure from.


What I observed first is a little bit of montage occurring (we see this very often in North Korean images, generally to make a scene extra lovely however typically a little bit of stick and paste to match the historic narrative) the billboard is superimposed as could be seen by the white line curving round a few passers-by. Had the billboards certainly been positioned on this spot exterior the cinema on Sungri Avenue, it will not be lengthy earlier than they have been knocked down by a trolley bus. Additionally, there’s a little bit of fakery because it appears to be like like an evening screening – however movies have been then (as they’re now) largely screened throughout daytime; both you go on a Sunday (the one day the place you’re left to your individual gadgets) or it’s important to ask permission out of your supervisor to take day off work.


At Koryo Excursions & Studio we all know the neo-classical cinema properly; we now have popped in right here for numerous capabilities over time however none extra prestigious than for a screening of our movie ‘Comrade Kim goes Flying’ in 2014- it was winter and freezing in and out so everybody was wrapped up heat.

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No want for me to waffle on any extra as there may be the proper DPRK promotion video right here, which incorporates this very good little bit of narration “The cinema home has just lately added a brand new gorgeousness to its unique architectural magnificence.”

The significance of the constructing can also be proven in a few linocuts within the Koryo Studio assortment:

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Within the {photograph} the billboards selling the movie are all over the place; not solely the big ones at floor stage but in addition smack bang on the first-floor balcony. These billboards would have been hand-painted – and cinemas across the nation nonetheless use hand painted posters to promote the most recent movies when which can be launched.

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I got here throughout this newer footage which reveals movie posters displayed in a spread of places. In hoardings and on the primary floor- one of many photographs appears to be like like ‘Anonymous Heroes’, an epic TV collection which featured American defectors to North Korea – extra on them in right here – Nonetheless, since renovation, posters can’t be splashed concerning the place – see the photographs under, all very clear and tidy:

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At present there may be simply the one concrete billboard the place movie posters are positioned – these posters are sometimes nonetheless hand painted.


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From Left to Proper: BATTLE OF SHANGGANLING (Chinese language), NEVER ENDING STRUGGLE, VICTORY PEAK, ROAD TO SPACE (Russian). Insert on the first-floor balcony THE LITTLE CAPTAIN (appears to be like like a poster with a toddler sporting a neckerchief of the Schoolchildren’s Union)

‘BATTLE OF SHANGGANLING’ 1956 Chinese language movie set through the Korean Warfare and all relatively determined each by way of motion and watching it. A little bit facet curiosity on how the theme tune of the tune precipitated a spot of controversy many years later right here: Chinese language-born pianist denies he performed a tune to insult U.S. Los Angeles Occasions 25 January 2011

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Above a screenshot from the movie. It seems there was a scarcity of actors to play the US imperialists, so the one glimpse you get of the enemy is within the type of an ammunition field. In 1959 the movie can have been stay dubbed, however you’ll be able to go a stage additional and watch the movie with out this facility and observe your Chinese language language abilities right here

‘NEVER ENDING STRUGGLE’ sadly can not discover any data on this aside from it was launched in 1957.

‘VICTORY PEAK” once more no extra data on this accessible

‘ROAD TO THE STARS’ and at last the 1957 traditional ground-breaking, half documentary/half science fiction movie concerning the previous and way forward for astronautics. From the primary experiments by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky to manned spaceflight and colonisation of the Moon. By accident the filming coincided with the launch of Sputnik, the world’s first satellite tv for pc, and through the edit the filmmakers have been instructed to incorporate scenes of this exceptional occasion. For the screening on the Taedongmun Cinema in Pyongyang, the movie can have been stay dubbed by actors along side the stage, not subtitled.

Watch ‘Street to the Stars’ right here

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The 1957 USSR model of the movie poster ‘Street to the Stars’

What stunned me about this was the similarities between the imagery within the movie and the works we commissioned with North Korean artist Kim Kwang Nam, ‘The Future is Brilliant‘.  By some means it appears this imagery (which isn’t a topic coated in North Korean fiction) will need to have filtered into the aware of how and what house appears to be like like. It reportedly was a blueprint for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A House Odyssey which was filmed ten years after.

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A screenshot from ‘Street to the Stars’

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House Man Mirrored in Helmet by Kim Kwang Nam 2015 (linocut and artwork print accessible from Koryo Studio)

On an analogous theme we had an e mail dialog with Physician Xosé Crisanto Gándara who focuses on music and has travelled with us a number of occasions to North Korea:

In ‘Street to the Stars’, we see at minute 39:09 the picture of the floor of a star/planet/the Moon. At that second, the music modifications: a dissonant melody performed in unison by flute plus clarinet, accompanied by the string part, and with a elementary sound: two vibraphone contact in E flat, that’s, a “tremulous” sound.

We will recognize this “tremulous Thereminesque” sound in Pochonbo’s model of the tune “The place are you, Pricey Common” in B minor -both instrumental and vocal ones- from 1991, and once more within the “thereminesque” model of the clock tower of Pyongyang station, in A minor [by the way, implemented by the Signal Corps Captain Kim Pyong Sam in December 2004]. The “solely” distinction is that within the latter instances, the “extra-terrestrial” voice is that representing Kim Il Sung.

So the query now could be: how properly did Kim Jong Il know concerning the sci-fi movies of the Hollywood “Golden Age” from the fifties?


I hope you could have loved this look into one of many archive photographs- actually ‘Street to the Stars’ will need to have been mind-blowing for the North Koreans who watched it on the Taedongmun Cinema in 1959. On our subsequent journey there I’ll ask some old-timers. Within the meantime, we now have the unique linocuts and a collection of restricted version artwork prints on the market right here plus a possibility to buy restricted version prints of North Korean movie stars – as really useful by TV, comedy, and movie legend Sir Michael Palin, who gave us an amazing endorsement;

‘These glimpses of actors, administrators and movie crews at work in North Korea are so priceless. They present a facet of North Korean life that we see too hardly ever, if in any respect. They’re going about their enterprise like actors and crews at work wherever. The photographs have an aesthetic magnificence and a common relevance’.

Desirous about a tour to North Korea? 

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North Korea journey specialists, Koryo Excursions 

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