A Kim Jong-Il Production:
The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power
by Paul Fischer
This is a fascinating look inside North Korea but also at the power of movies.
Kim Jong-Il realized when young that he who wields the stories, wields the power. Using his passion for movies, Kim managed to become his father's favorite (and successor), revolutionize North Korean cinema, and be "Dear Leader" of his captive Hermit Kingdom. He had a higher goal, however, which was to gain the respect and acceptance of other countries.
He decided to follow in the footsteps of the Japanese who had used their post-WWII film industry to help regain favorable world standing. The problem was that North Korean film didn't have what it needed to make this happen. But South Korea did. So, of course, he had to kidnap a heralded South Korean director and famous actress in order to do it.
This is one nutty story and the fact that it is well documented and true just makes it even nuttier. It's one of those books that make you annoy everyone around you by telling them the amazing tidbits that arise every other page. For example, Kim thought that the James Bond films were essentially docudramas and planned espionage missions accordingly. (Ok, that's the last time I'll do that to you.)
I knew next to nothing about North Korea before reading this book. The story itself is amazing but also saddening when the North Koreans' lives were detailed. My favorite part was once the movies were being shown to the Korean public. Movies have a power that even the most movie-savvy dictator can't predict and can influence real life in a way no one can imagine.
I was the last person in our family to read this and really appreciate the heroic efforts that Hannah, Tom, and Rose made to not talk about it before I got my hands on it.