A U.S. documentary film about the murder of the North Korean leader's brother Kim Jong-nam has come into the spotlight as the South Korean film authority refused to give the work the status of an art movie.
Directed and produced by Ryan White, "Assassins" follows the two women who killed Kim by using toxic chemicals at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2017.
Kim was the eldest son of deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the half-brother of Jong-un, the incumbent leader of the reclusive country.
The 104-minute documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, one of the world's largest independent film festivals, last year.
Last month, local importers and distributors of the piece -- The Coop, Watcha and Kth -- asked the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) to give the film art movie status before releasing the title in South Korea in June.
However, the KOFIC turned down the request, saying the film failed to meet four criteria -- a film with an outstanding aesthetic value; a film that is creative and experimental in theme, message and expression; a film contributing to cultural exchanges, free flows of thoughts and cultural diversity; and a film worth preserving in artistic and social-cultural perspectives.
"'Assassins' does not meet the four criteria, as we do not see it has creativity or outstanding aesthetic value," KOFIC was quoted as saying in a report submitted to Rep. Kim Seung-soo for the main opposition People Power Party.
The film's distributors strongly opposed the KOFIC decision, saying that "Assassins," has won rave reviews from critics and viewers across the world as an art movie.
"The film's invitation to a prestigious international film festival shows that its artistic values have been recognized by the world cinema circle," they said in a statement. "We strongly believe that the film complies with the KOFIC guidelines as an art movie."
The distributors said they have again submitted a request to the film authority to review the decision on "Assassins."
A KOFIC-sanctioned art movie is eligible to be screened at art house theaters dedicated to low-budget indie and non-commercial art films. Otherwise, it has to compete with blockbusters at multiplexes, which prefer profitable big-budget titles.
Some suspect that the KOFIC has made a political decision, considering the yearslong stand-off with Pyongyang.
"Although a film was screened at a renowned film festival, it could lack artistic value or creativity, or have commercial interests based on KOFIC standards," film critic Yoon Sung-eun, who has served as a member of KOFIC, said. "The movie seems to be attracting a lot of attention due to the theme."
According to the KOFIC report, the nine-member committee refused to grant art movie status to 400 films between January 2017 and the end of May.
source: Madman Films & Yonhap News