Shane Croghan takes a look at David Kinsella’s The Wall, the story of a young female poet in North Korea, which screened at Galway Film Fleadh 2016.
The Wall, director David Kinsella’s highly inventive tale of a young North Korean poet, was publicly screened for the very first time at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh. Drawing on his own experience growing up in a troubled Belfast, Kinsella has managed to offer the viewer an insight into an extremely secretive state, through a Northern Irish lens.
The film, fittingly, is a multicultural production, shot in North Korea and Belfast, with Norwegian animation and a script penned in Amsterdam by Klaas Bense. This diversity is apt considering the nature of the story, a globe-trotting comparison piece that serves to highlight the universal nature of human experience in spite of cultural and political differences.
The story behind the making of The Wall is fascinating in itself, with Kinsella originally setting out to shoot a documentary he found that all the footage he obtained was pure fiction owing to the behaviour of the North Korean government, who brought in extras and effectively forced the director to shoot propaganda. Not to be deterred, Kinsella changed his approach and set about gathering material that could later be altered with animation. This unique set of circumstances has led to an altogether original style of visual storytelling.
Although the North Korean narrative dominates much of the running time, The Wall opens and closes with scenes set in Belfast, contextualising the tale of the North Korean poet Yung-Hee and reaffirming the director’s intention to compare the fear and paranoia found in these two troubled nations. In Belfast, three young Protestant boys play football beside a large wall. The Catholics are on the other side of the wall and the young men waste no time in making us aware of their disdain for those across the divide. These opening moments are extremely effective in setting the tone of the piece and there’s even some comedy to be found in the performance of the young actors, one of whom is playing the role of Kinsella himself.
Soon, the boys stumble upon Yung-Hee, mysteriously sitting alone on a bench by the big wall. After some introduction, the loss of the football and a number of racially charged comments from the three lads, we find ourselves transported to North Korea as the poet relays her tale of crushed dreams, totalitarian control and a complete absence of free thought. A particularly neat visual touch is employed throughout the North Korean scenes to convey the extent of government control, with wires seen attached to citizens, suggesting that they are merely puppets on strings. The muted colour palette of the suitably dreary shooting locations finds a nice contrast in the colourful splashes of animation which feature prominently throughout the film, giving a visual representation of the often metaphorical language of Yung-Hee’s story. Indeed, it is the beauty of Yung-Hee’s words, exemplified in her poem, that ultimately frees her from the tyranny of a controlling state and drives home the point of her story for the young David, who is very convincingly portrayed by Corey McKinley.
The Wall scooped the award for Best Human Rights Feature at this year’s Fleadh, and deservedly so. David Kinsella has managed to embrace the rather strange journey which led to the creation of this film and draw inspiration from any limitations he may have encountered. By utilising his own life experience, he has produced a moving piece that highlights the misguided thought process which permeates states driven by fear and paranoia.
The Wall screened on Thursday, 7th July 2016 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh