Red flags, not red carpet: Local film wins North Korean fest

Pyongyang, The Pyongyang International Film Festival wrapped up Friday with top honors going to wait for it a domestically produced feature about a young woman who selflessly devotes herself to raising orphans.

The winner of the "Best Torch Award," selected by a panel of international judges, was "Story About My House," a drama
about Ri Jong A, who wins the honors of leader Kim Jong Un for devoting herself to raising orphans after graduating from

The prizes were announced at a lavishly decorated hall in central Pyongyang replete with glittery gowns, golden trophies and colorful stage lighting but no red carpets.

Like all state-sanctioned art in North Korea, the winning feature, released in September, has an explicitly political message. State media emphasized the heroine's "ennobling mental world" and traits that are "the precious fruition of the validity and vitality of the (ruling) party's idea and line of prioritizing the youth."

The North also entered a documentary, "Prosperous Pyongyang," and the animated "Two Boys Who Found an Answer" in the completion part of the festival.

Other films came from Germany, France, Syria, the Philippines 21 countries in all.

The biennial festival was a smaller affair than in previous years.

Henrik Nydqvist, a filmmaker from Sweden who has attended the festival since 2004, said fewer films were presented 60 from the 21 countries, compared with about 100 films previously. He said that was likely due to the "difficult political situation" on the Korean Peninsula these days.

Tensions have been rising since the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and then tested another this

Nydqvist noted that the Russian presence at the festival was more pronounced this year, with the head of the jury being
Russian. Chinese participation, meanwhile, was noticeably smaller.

Nydqvist said that although foreign participation was smaller, the festival provides an opportunity for local audiences to view foreign films they would otherwise not be able to see. Entries from abroad ranged from the Indian movie "Garbbar is Back" to the Chinese film "The White Haired Witch of the Lunar Kingdom."