University of Pittsburgh
November 18 & 19
Various times

In addition to the celebrated Three Rivers Film Festival, which kicks off this week (see our preview here), fans of international cinema can check out a lesser-known micro-cinema event that might not be on the public’s radar, but is sure to be highly fascinating and informative.

Presented by the University of Pittsburgh’s Asian Studies Center, this weekend’s North Korean Film Festival spans two days with multidisciplinary events taking place at Frick Fine Arts Auditorium and The University Club in Oakland. The free two-day festival is an exciting opportunity to see North Korean films rarely shown to the American public.

The fest kicks off Friday, November 18, with programs running from 3 to 9:40 p.m. Day one is dedicated to the pioneering work of Shin Sang-ok (1926—2006), a prolific South Korean director who was kidnapped by the North Korean government so that he could produce films for Kim Jong-il. Dubbed the “prince of Korean cinema,” Shin Sang-ok produced and directed some 170 films and is the recipient of South Korea’s top honor for an artist, the Gold Crown Cultural Medal.

Friday will feature introductory remarks by Professor Seung-hwan Shin of Pitt’s East Asian Language and Literature Department, followed by a screening of Shin Sang-ok’s 1984 film, An Emissary Unreturned. At 6:45 p.m. Steven Chung, associate professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University, will share his extensive writings and research on the North Korean film industry during a special lecture. The evening will conclude with a screening of North Korea’s famed Godzilla film, Bulgasari (1985) at 8 p.m. and a Q&A session.


Running from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday November 19, the festival’s second day is dedicated to an exploration of North Korean cinema and its role in China during the Cultural Revolution.

Don’t miss a screening of the North Korean revolutionary genre, theatrical performance, The Flower Girl. Produced in 1972, The Flower Girl is widely considered to be North Korea’s most famous film, and was shown extensively in mainland China during the Cultural Revolution.

Director Shin Sang-ok.

Saturday’s program will also feature an engaging panel discussion with Dr. Shu-Jiang Lu, Haihui Zhang and Hong-Guang Jia—who have all experienced the Cultural Revolution firsthand.

Day two will conclude with a screening of the 1974 film, Fate of Kum Hui and Un Hui, about two sisters separated during wartime, and a Q&A session.

The North Korean Film Festival is free and open to the public. View a complete schedule.

Looking for more events? Check out our 10 Pittsburgh events not to miss in November and 10 great family adventures in Pittsburgh this November feature stories.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...