September 26, 2008 / 3:06 PM / 10 years ago

Politics aside, China film wins Pyongyang prize

BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea and erstwhile friend China may not be as close as “lips and teeth” anymore following Pyongyang’s 2006 nuclear test, but a Chinese film has won best picture title at a festival in the reclusive Communist state.

Chinese film director Feng Xiaogang attends a news conference for his latest film "The Banquet" in Anji county, east China's Zhejiang province, in this November 23, 2005 file picture. REUTERS/China Daily/Files

The Pyongyang International Film Festival awarded the best film and best director prizes to Chinese movie “The Assembly” by well-know director Feng Xiaogang, Chinese and North Korean state media said Friday.

The film, featuring the heroics of a group of Communist soldiers at the end of the Chinese civil war in the late 1940s, has already been a big box office hit in China.

Relations between China and neighboring North Korea, once described as being as close as “lips and teeth,” have soured in recent years, especially since North Korea began a controversial nuclear program.

Other films honored included the British movie “Atonement,” a wartime romance staring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, and Iran’s “Mainline,” a drama about drug abuse, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said.

Movies are near to the heart of leader Kim Jong-il, a fan of Daffy Duck, Steven Spielberg and Elizabeth Taylor. Kim is thought to have a library of about 20,000 films that includes all of the James Bond movies, intelligence sources have said.

In recent years, the North has screened about 70 films from about 30 countries at the festival. That include its own movies as well as films from Europe, the United States and the Asia-Pacific region.

The event, once called “The Film Festival of Non-Aligned and other Developing Countries,” used to show obscure films from far-flung corners of the world.

In recent editions, it has grown more international, and added TV documentaries as well as movies that play on the global film festival circuit. North Korea stages parties for the festival but participants say the events lack any luster.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jerry Norton

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