From Marilyn Monroe to Kim Jong Il: North Korean Cinema in the 1950s and 1960s

2:00 pm on Tuesday, February 18, 2014
3:30 pm on Tuesday, February 18, 2014
CAS 427
This talk focuses on the post-Korean War period until the late 1960s in the history of North Korean cinema. Although North Korean cinema has been commonly reduced to political propaganda, I argue that during these two formative decades film reception among moviegoers was at odds with official expectations, giving rise to a culture of so-called “chameleon spectatorship” and “critical cinephilia.” Following a rift in the Soviet-North Korean relations in the late 1950s, Pyongyang turns to Hollywood in order to model its new cinema on American success and discipline its errant viewership by means of a new genre of “light comedy.” This event is held in conjunction with LK 383 Modern Korean Culture through Cinema. Dima Mironenko is currently finishing work on his dissertation entitled “A Jester with Chameleon Faces: Laughter and Comedy in North Korea, 1953-1969,” which is a study of everyday comedy and laughter among North Korea’s moviegoing public in the 1950s and 1960s. His research explores the questions of agency, free choice, and the limits of power in a modern authoritarian state, focusing of everydayness, film reception, and humor in the context of Cold War international politics. Dima received his B.A. in Korean studies from Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 2005 and his A.M. from the Regional Studies – East Asia program at Harvard in 2007. In 2000, he spent a semester as an exchange student at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. Dima is also a co-founder and programmer of the Korean Cinematheque series at the Korea Institute at Harvard, which he ran between 2009 and 2012.