The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or North Korea has a special relationship with cinema; films are not only for entertainment but are a way to teach and enforce the socialist values. Most stories deal with heroic battles, semi-historical events or great personal sacrifice; characters rise above intolerable suffering and are rewarded, often by gratitude from the leader or their own satisfaction of helping the motherland.
These themes may seem unfamiliar, even uncomfortable to Western viewers; however, placed in the North Korean historical context of occupation, war and struggle for personal or global survival, they make perfect sense. Koreans are proud of their ability to overcome challenges, and are grateful for the protection of their leadership.
The beauty of the DPRK posters lie in their apparent simplicity and effortlessness. The intensity of the colour palette, the powerful imagery, unique compositions and unexpected font choice make every work a great contribution to the film itself. As well as printed film posters, promoters display unsigned hand-painted copies on billboards and at cinemas done by copy artists attached to local art studios. Koryo Studio commissioned this collection during the 2002 Pyongyang Film Festival for Non-Aligned Countries (now the Pyongyang International Film Festival). These gouache and gouache/acrylic pieces pay tribute not only to the film but also the artists’ creative endeavour, without ever taking the spotlight from the performers. Both the art and the cinema serve as a unique window into a mysterious and fascinating culture.