Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nicholas Bonner on North Korea

Nicholas Bonner by PINCNetherlands
Nicholas Bonner, a photo by PINCNetherlands on Flickr.
Nicholas is based in Beijing but has done more work in North Korea than anyone I know. He visited Beijing in 1993 as a lecturer in Landscape Architecture and whilst studying basic Chinese he played soccer with a North Korean who also lived in Beijing. At the invitation of this team mate, Bonner first visited North Korea in 1993. Struck by what he experienced in this unique country, Bonner teamed up with a partner in Beijing to start a travel agency based in Beijing and specialising in tours to North Korea.

“We all have our own preconceptions on North Korea but this comes from a very limited perspective- very often black and white viewpoints. No one was actually engaging with the North Koreans, nor did the West have any new incites into the country. Through film, tourism art and cultural events we found a few ways in which to work with the people and for twenty years we continue to promote engagement as a tool for creating dialogue and understanding", says Bonner.

As a regular visitor to North Korea, Bonner, who also is a painter, cartoonist, landscape artist and filmmaker, became more and more acquainted with the country and was eventually allowed to film there. His first documentary told the story of the North Korean soccer team that shocked the world by qualifying for the quarter finals of the 1966 World Cup in England, after a 1-0 victory over Italy. A second film follows two girls preparing for a mass performance for supreme leader, Kim Jong Il. A third movie portrays an American who has been living in Pyongyang since defecting from the US Army in the 1960s.

Bonner’s films have won awards at various major festivals. Always in for something new, after 6 years work he has just finished work on a romantic comedy that intends to shed a new light on this fascinating country. He showed some excerpts at PINC 13 in Zeist last month. The acting is like something I've never seen before. But it is so rare to see anything on film that shows any kind of emotion. 
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