Movie Review: The Other Side of the Mountain

By William Kustiono

The Other Side of the Mountain is the first feature film co-produced between a U.S. company and North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). This fiction feature was directed by In Hak Jang, who shot the film entirely in North Korea with an all-North Korean cast and crew. Producer and Screenwriter Joon Bai was a Korean-American Korean War refugee who shares his story and point of view. The Other Side of the Mountain was featured in the Korean American Film Festival New York (KAFFNY) on closing night, with In Hak Jang and Joon Bai in attendance.

The movie is set during the Korea War in 1950-1954. A young nurse in a small suburban town called Chunamri, North Korea saves a wounded South Korean soldier who was left behind during battle. Brought together by the unfortunate circumstance of war, theirs is a fateful meeting. His identity has been unknown to her until the day he must return to South Korea. With the promise to return, the nurse will wait a lifetime for him. Separated by war and countries, the young man tries everything to get back to the North, but diplomatic relations between countries made it impossible for their reunion. As the years go by and their youth slips away, he finally gets an unexpected opportunity to fulfill his wish and return to her. But reunions are not easy and after several years apart, they are met with more tragedy.

The Other Side of the Mountain took six years to complete due to difficult circumstances. The collaboration with the North Korean film industry was an elusive connection. With the consent of the Department of Culture of North Korean Government, the American producer was granted access to produce this feature film with North Koreans. This film was shot entirely in North Korea with an all-North Korean cast and crew who received instruction and rations from the government for working on the film. The soundtrack features composed songs by North Korean orchestra. Due to the limited access to resources and technology in North Korea, the production team was granted permission to finish the post-production in China. The sound equipment was brought over to Pyongyang and used for the first time in their film history. North Korea is proud to announce and present this film to the rest of the world.

This film is different from other documentary movie about Korean War, mostly because it depicts the Korean War in the North Korea’s point of view. According to the North Koreans, the reason they had this war among their brothers was because they refused to become a meat shield for America. South Korea has accepted democracy and became a capitalist area whereas North Korea is still a communist. In 1950, when Syngman Rhee, the first president of South Korea announced that he was going to attack North Korea with America as an ally, North Korea used this announcement as an excuse for them to invade and attack South Korea.

Producer Joon Bai was born in Hae Ryong, North Korea in 1937. He experienced the ending of World War II in 1945 and was taken as a refugee in South Korea during the Korean War in 1950. He immigrated to the United States as an exchange student and earned a B.S.M.E at the University of Missouri in 1956. He has been actively supporting the North Korean orphanages since 1997. He realized the tremendous need for reunification of South and North Korea and began to writes this script to support the cause. He produced his first feature film, The Other Side of the Mountain.

This documentary is an emotional and personal film that refugees and veterans can relate to, a couple is separated by a war torn country. Joon Bai created this movie to show the audience a different point of view from North Korea. Joon Bai hopes what the audience will take away from this film is to understand others from their point of view. He hopes to promote peace through this movie and that everyone can make peace in every parts of the world.

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