Unable to get permission to film there, the young Czech documentary maker Linda Jablonská took a different approach after learning that tourists are allowed to bring video cameras below a certain size into North Korea. She and her team joined an officially sanctioned Czech tour group, recording the reactions of members of the party to conditions in the tightly controlled country. Welcome to North Korea! is one of a number of Czech films being shown at One World – and indeed was directly inspired by an encounter at the festival of human rights documentaries.
I spoke to Linda Jablonská just as the festival was getting underway.
“Last year I was at the festival One World and I saw a film from North Korea. There was a North Korean refugee as a guest at a discussion and I asked him, what can a person from central Europe do for North Korean people? And he said any publicity, any article, any film would…do good.
“That was my idea. And then I was surfing on the internet and I saw this offer from a travel agency offering these kind of trips to North Korea, and I just found it interesting.”
Was there any one thing about North Korea that stood out for you?
“Well everything. Basically the atmosphere was something that I wasn’t expecting at all. It was something that I have never experienced in my life – a very depressing and profound feeling of, like, negative energy.”
Would you say that you as a person from a former communist state had any particular in North Korea into their society?
“Definitely. That’s one of the issues of our film, how the people from a former communist county react to the reality they see. Because there are quite a lot of things which are quite similar, which were here and are there at the moment. Even though quite a lot of things are completely different.
“And since some people in the group who were over 50 or 60 and they lived in a communist regime most of their lives it was quite interesting for me to watch it and to have it in the film. If I were watching for example a Swedish group it would be a completely different film – and maybe I wouldn’t do the film!”
You were I guess about 10 years old when communism ended here – was there anything about North Korea that reminded you of your childhood?
“Definitely. The architecture…the whole feeling of the country, the collective thinking, even the TV, quite a lot of things.”
Your film is already out at the cinema here but it’s still part of the One World festival – what does it mean to you to have the film in the festival?
“It’s a great opportunity to show the film to a festival which I adore
and really appreciate. So it’s great, and I hope people will come!”
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