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World Cinema Series: The Flower Girl

When 10 September 2013 (Tuesday), 7.30 pm
Where National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre
93 Stamford Road Singapore 178897

Free admission but members only -- flash your membership card to go in. You may bring up to 2 guests if you hold a SFS Reel membership card. Non-members may sign up online or at the door -- we will issue membership on the spot. No tickets will be sold. Free seating.


The Flower Girl

Directors Choe Ik-kyu & Pak Hak

1972 / Democratic People's Republic of Korea / 127 min / Digital Beta

In Korean with English subtitles

Based on a revolutionary opera written by Kim Il-sung, the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from 1948 to 1994, The Flower Girl is set in the 1930s during the Korean independence movement and tells the tragic story of a poor family oppressed by their cruel Japanese colonial masters. 

The film stars the 17-year-old Hong Yong–hee as Koppun, a young girl who picks flowers from the mountainside to sell at the market to help support her sick mother and blind younger sister. The injustices that the oppressors inflict upon Koppun and her family pile up to extreme levels of anguish while Koppun anticipates the arrival of her brother who promised to elevate the family from their dire states. The incoming nationalistic revolution offers a grand finale and resolution to their plight, as well as a clear expression of the film’s ideological purpose. However it is the dignity and resilience of Koppun in her suffering which serves as the most endearing aspect of the film. 

The Flower Girl is a prime example of a revolutionary film that is meant to move the masses and communicate state ideals. It shares the conventions of communist propaganda films, such as the crop of agitprop films made by the third and fourth generation of filmmakers in China during the 50s and 60s. But it stands out with its gracefully epic scale which positions it as a benchmark North Korean film, and an entry point to the otherwise obscure cinematic history of the country. 

Winner of a special prize at the 1972 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, The Flower Girl was the first international breakthrough for North Korean cinema. Shot in colour and filled with epic soul stirring songs about the struggle against injustice and oppression, the film encapsulated communist ideals during the era and became massively popular in China during the Cultural Revolution, where the heart wrenching story has been ingrained into the collective memory of an entire generation of Chinese movie goers. In North Korea, the film was such a huge success and cultural phenomenon that the image of actress Hong Yong–hee was used in the country’s currency.