Clowns, Illusionists, and Jugglers: North Korean Circus in Film and Everyday Life

Clowns, Illusionists, and Jugglers: North Korean Circus in Film and Everyday Life

Dima Mironenko - CEAS Postdoctoral Associate & Lecturer in East Asian Languages and Literatures

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 1:00pm to 2:30pm
Room 241, Rosenkranz Hall See map
115 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511

In 1966, Pyongyang releases its first color light comedy film, Merry Ring (dir. Kim Yŏng), ushering a new era of politically correct cinema in North Korea, with the musical comedy genre as its crown jewel. After years of unsuccessful struggle against the rowdy audiences that would systematically hijack screenings of propaganda films at the nation’s movie theaters, the state film studio finally decides to make a bold move and give its troublemaking patrons the circus they had only been too eager to experience. An adaptation of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 silent classic, The Circus, this inaugural 1960s production marks an historic shift in the way Pyongyang now approaches political education of its citizens. Centered largely on the emulation of Hollywood-style technical finesse and showmanship, Merry Ring and its timing coincide with a new interest in the Western circus among North Korea’s cultural architects and public at large. The talk revisits this critical turning point in North Korean cultural history, examining the implications of the new privileged place for the circus in cinema and everyday life within an emerging new politics of socialist spectacle.

Dima Mironenko is a film and cultural historian of North Korea. His research focuses on the history of everyday. His dissertation, “A Jester with Chameleon Faces: Laughter and Comedy in North Korea, 1954-1969,” looks at how laughter functioned in North Korean culture, examining its effects on society and cultural policy during the postwar decade. Dima received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 2014. Before coming to Yale, he spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University. While at Yale, Dima will be working on his book manuscript and teaching an undergraduate seminar, “North Korea through Film.”

A light lunch will be provided.  Please RSVP to by 12/4.

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