When referring to the grand title, "Genius of the Cinema," several names come to mind: Hitchcock, Ford, Fellini, Scorsese, Coppola, Malick...but no, evidently they are all just pretenders to the throne. The true "Genius of the Cinema" is...(drum roll please)...none other than Kim Jong-Il of North Korea. How do I know this to be true? Well, because Kim says so, and in North Korea when Kim says so, it's so. He is also known as "Lodestarof the 21st Century," "Dear Leader", "The Sun of the 21st Century," and on and on and on ad nauseam. We in the West, however, know Kim as the cognac swilling, bouffant haired, platform shoe wearing, ruthless crackpot authoritarian Stalinist ruler that he is. What distinguishes Kim from other dictators that the world has had to deal with is that Kim actually possesses weapons of mass destruction. He just hasn't mastered the physics of launching them yet if recent missile tests are any indication.
Believing that Kim could even remotely be considered a hallowed cinematic genius is quite laughable. However, he does have some connection and credits related to film. After all, Kim started his dictator internship at the only film production company in the country. At the Korean Feature Film Studio, Kim was put in charge of propaganda by his father, "The Great Leader," Kim Il-Sung. Kim the elder, who triggered the Korean War with his invasion of the South, was an equally repressive autocratic figure.
Today the state run studio reportedly produces about 40 films annually. Of course the bad guys are always Americans or Japanese, and the good guys...well they are always Koreans of the Northern variety. Kim supposedly visits the studio several times a year (that is when he's not busy maiming, torturing, or lobbing missiles) to "guide the movie making process." According to local lore (or the State run news agency) Kim has been known to rewrite scripts and turn them into magic overnight. He has claimed that it is the obligation of cinema to help develop the people into "true communists," and as a means "to completely eradicate capitalist elements ." But even Kim realized his vision of film needed a transfusion of fresh blood, energy, creativity, and talent. So what did he do? Several years ago, he ordered the abduction of one of South Korea's leading movie directors - Shin Sang-ok, along with his actress wife - Choi Eun-hee. Perhaps the best result of this involuntary servitude was the science fiction monster saga Pulgasari. Shin and his wife would later escape the clutches of Kim and live to tell about their strange ordeal.
Kim's directors don't have to suffer the indignity of putting up with bad behavior and temper tantrums from overpaid prima dona actors. Let's face it, any North Korean actor exhibiting such behavior would be rewarded with a one man show in the Gulag Jong-Il. After a film wraps, there are no promotional tours for the actors to take part in. Oh no, they dutifully return to work in the rice fields. Imagine Tom Cruise helping out with the Bakersfield cotton harvest after he wraps a film. The North Korean capitol, Pyongyang, does sponsor a film festival every two years but there is no glitter, no glamour, and absolutely no deals going down. I can't wait for my press pass to this wonderful event.
We can be assured that no great films will ever come out of North Korea as long as the "Great Director" is behind the camera. Kim's perversion of art, literature, and cinema is hard to stomach for anyone who believes in the idea that individuals should be free to express their thoughts and ideas. How many creative sparks has Kim snuffed out during his reign of terror? While artists are often on the cutting edge of change, revolution, and progressive thinking there are none to be found in North Korea. Kim has already killed or imprisoned such individuals. The only thing cutting edge found in this concentration camp of a country is the blade of a sword or guillotine. One can only hope that one day the menace of the Kim regime will be over and that some young, bright North Korean filmmaker will tell the story of the abject poverty, misery, starvation, and the worst human rights abuses imaginable suffered by his or her people. I believe that we owe them that much.