A poster from Japanese Street, Motel Drinks displays a pretty waitress in her Kimono at a motel serving saki. The red Japanese characters suggest that in this motel women will be available to drink with the men. In other words, a place where all sorts of loose behavior go on behind closed doors.
Portrayals of the evil Japanese and their bawdy capitalist lifestyle are regular themes in North Korean films. None more so than in the film series ‘Nation and Destiny’. (See more on North Korean films).
The North Korean Film Studio Posters – a rare chance to purchase a piece of North Korean film history and propaganda! The North Korean Film Studio was established in 1947. It built permanent sets to shoot pro-revolutionary films that were very much against the Japanese colonization of the country and the US presence of South Korea.
There are different streets that represent colonial-era Korea, 1930’s Manchuria, South Korea, and imperial Japan. There was even a set depicting a generic European country. This includes a church and a number of villas.
Now, they are currently renovating Pyongyang Film Studio. And the posters North Korean artists dreamt up as ‘imperialist advertising’ and previously used to make the streets more authentic are being removed.
You should remember that these Korean artists would have had no direct experience of these places and would have drawn their inspiration from photographs. Their ‘capitalist’ style adverts promoted dog grooming to brothels and even included their interpretation of western-style film hoardings.
The posters have a wonderful naivety, a ‘lost in translation’ feel to them. In North Korea advertising is not permitted so the artists were dealing with a medium that was truly alien to them.
Director of Koryo Studio, Nicholas Bonner, has been a regular visitor to the Film Studio since the 1990s and he always photographed the film posters as they were replaced or re-painted. In 2002 he commissioned artists from the Film Studio to recreate the advertising posters as individual pieces of art.
Classic North Korean films have been made at the Korean Film Studio (Pyongyang) since its opening in 1947. It is a complex of 750,00 square meters designated for filmmaking. The two main focuses are the anti-Japanese struggle and the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War) but also historic dramas (often anti-Japanese) as well as stories of struggles in achieving the revolution and even romantic comedies with a socialist twist.
There are indoor studios but the most interesting are the exterior permanent sets consisting of a traditional Korean village and traditional Korean buildings, a 1930s Chinese street, a Japanese street, a Korean street before liberation, a south Korean street, and also a European village. It is in the Japanese and South Korean Street that these posters are to be found as part of the set- depicting advertising for morally dubious products and services.
A Chinese investor has recently acquired the film set, so renovations are now underway and unfortunately, the original posters will most likely have been destroyed. Now the only full record of the posters is with Koryo Studio.