North America’s first North Korean human rights film festival concluded Sunday after 3 days of programming. The festival, held at Innis Town Hall in Toronto, was considered a success and featured a varied lineup of guests, speakers and films to highlight ongoing abuses happening in the regime.
Programming kicked off Friday night with the premiere of Winter Butterfly – a South Korean drama directed by DPRK defector Gyu-min Kim. The film, depicting the story of a mother and son’s struggle for survival in rural North Korea, was screened in front of over a hundred patrons at Innis Town Hall.
Before the screening, founder and director of NKHRFF, Gilad Cohen, offered an introduction to the festival explaining that, “North Koreans have a story worth knowing and worth hearing about.”
Randall Baran-Chong and Erica Kim of HanVoice spoke after the screening about the movements their organization is making with helping North Korean defectors based in Toronto.
A small lineup formed for Saturday’s day screening of Yodok Stories which documents the life of former inmates of North Korea’s Yodok prison camps amidst the backdrop of a musical interpretation of the same. Ann Shin, director of the forthcoming The Defector, spoke afterwards with a former North Korean citizen, Mr. Heo. Mr. Heo was able to give a broader illustration of life in the Hermit Kingdom and the challenges of moving on in a democratic society.
The day continued with screenings of documentaries Dear Pyongyang and Friends of Kim – both of which offered real-life inside looks of North Korean life.
Sunday’s screening of Tiger Spirit was followed by the director, Toronto-based Min-Sook Lee, speaking on key talking points from the film as well as expanding on the issue of family division and the possibility of reunification in the two Koreas. Goodbye Pyongyang bookended the story started with its Dear counterpart and was followed by a thorough information session from CanKor’s Jack Kim.
Crossing, another South Korean drama, screened in front of an ample audience and was able to move many to tears. “Jake”, a North Korean defector based in Toronto, spoke immediately afterwards to humanize the story. He hoped that the film festival helped shed light on where he was from and would inspire people to share his story.
Before the festival closed out with a performance from local violinist Dr. Draw who was accompanied by Satoshi Saito and Bob Vespaziani, Cohen thanked everybody who attended throughout the weekend, citing the festival as a success. “Now we can rest and think about NKHRFF 2013,” he said.