Closing the Gap: Hockey in North Korea
Closing the Gap follows a group of North Korean hockey players whose sole purpose is to bring home gold to honour their leader, Marshall Kim Jong Un. This film is however more than just a sports documentary. Using hockey as a conduit, the film chronicles the journey of the North Korean underdogs as they travel to New Zealand to compete in an international tournament. While their commitment and dedication to their training is unmatched, they’re ill-prepared to meet the challenges of competing on the world stage. Whether it is the negative effects of UN sanctions on the North Koreans, the ‘team leader’ (a secret security officer) monitoring their every move 24/7, or the flurry of injuries and rumours that plague the DPRK team, it seems these players can never catch a break. This film is a window into a group of national level athletes who are handicapped by carrying the physical, technical, and emotional burdens of residing in one of the most controlled and isolated nations in the world. What’s ultimately surprising is the stark differences in how they interact on and off the ice compared to what we know about hockey here in the West. There is no locker room chatter, no pump-up music, and no overzealous parading when they score. All of this comes to a head during the tournament when the team is thrust into a foreign environment, and we start to witness the cracks of North Korea in one of the simplest forms of non-verbal communication — sport. In what is the first recorded account of North Korea allowing foreigners access to any sports club, this pseudo-véritié film reveals individuals from a regime that is not conducive to individuality. Despite this, even when they lose and it seems as if the world is against them, these players are determined to seek for themselves that which we all seek — self-worth.
Starring Hong Chun Rim, Kim Hyok Ju, Ri Wang
Director Nigel Edwards