SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — It's a classic tale of a small-town girl who follows her dreams to the big city. But in this case, the girl is a North Korean coal miner, the big city is Pyongyang and her dream is to become a high-flying trapeze artist.
"Comrade Kim Goes Flying," a collaboration between a North Korean director and two European filmmakers, premieres Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival before it heads to Pyongyang later this month for its North Korean debut.
The film was shot on location with an all-Korean cast, but it avoids overtly political themes and isn't what foreign audiences might expect to see from North Korea: a feel-good romantic comedy about a plucky young woman who grabs her chance to run off to the circus, only to find her wings clipped by the show's handsome but arrogant superstar. He seems determined to make sure she doesn't succeed — until he falls in love with her.
British co-director Nicholas Bonner called the story an "unexpected fairytale.
"It's a universal story about a young girl wanting to achieve her dream," Bonner said Friday from Toronto. "It's the same story you and I grew up with" — but set in North Korea.
Pyongyang is familiar territory for Bonner, co-founder of Beijing-based Koryo Group, which organizes tour groups, art shows and sports exchanges with North Korea. Belgian producer Anja Daelemans, a two-time Oscar nominee, got a peek of the country when she showed a short film at the Pyongyang International Film Festival in 2002. The duo teamed up with Ryom Mi Hwa, a North Korean producer who has worked closely with Koryo Group over the years.
Citing the Korean phrase "Over the mountains are mountains," Bonner and Daelemans describe the making of the movie as a "long and halting process of ups and downs."