Kelowna filmmaker Nigel Edwards snaps a quick selfie in his Kelowna Rockets jersey while filming in North Korea. (Contributed)

Kelowna filmmaker Nigel Edwards snaps a quick selfie in his Kelowna Rockets jersey while filming in North Korea. (Contributed)

Kelowna filmmaker reflects on one-of-a-kind North Korea hockey documentary

Nigel Edwards’ Closing the Gap: Hockey in North Korea film premieres Dec. 5 at Whistler Film Festival

To most people, North Korea conjures up images of poverty, censorship and unimaginable suffering.

However, a new documentary film shot by a local filmmaker aims to shed light on the Hermit Kingdom.

In a first-of-its-kind film, Nigel Edwards’ uncensored documentary called Closing the Gap: Hockey in North Korea explores the trials and tribulations of the North Korea hockey team as the underdogs at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation tournament.

To shoot the film, Edwards’ film crew made three separate trips to North Korea, as the film took nearly four years to complete.

“We wanted to metaphorically close the gap between our world and theirs through hockey,” said Edwards.

“It was a discovery trip on how exactly the film was going to be made.

“How do you pull out individuals from a group of people who don’t want to be on screen or seen as individuals. In North Korea, it’s about the collective.”

READ MORE: Stuart Park ice rink opens for the public

Edwards and his film crew were the first group of foreign filmmakers to be allowed unprecedented access to any North Korean sports club.

The director said while his experience in the impoverished country was vastly different from his Okanagan roots, when it came to the sport of hockey there were lots of similarities.

“Even though we live very different lives, we can connect through hockey and sport, which I think is the kind of undertone of the film,” said Edwards.

“We’re no different. We have two arms, two legs, two eyes and the general hope of this film is to give them a voice of which they’re so deserving.”

Building trust with the North Korean players was one of the biggest difficulties and one of the biggest priorities during the filming of the documentary.

Once trust was established, Edwards learned through personal stories from the players that hockey in North Korea and hockey in the Okanagan are very similar.

The film’s plot follows the North Korea players and coaches as they enter a 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation tournament in New Zealand.

While they take bumps, bruises and losses at the tournament, the North Korean players showcase their resolve, discipline, talent and culture while trying to be successful at honouring their North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

READ MORE: Kelowna Olympian added to UBC Okanagan coaching staff

“This isn’t an essay into North Korea,” said Edwards.

“It’s really just a small look at a group of people and how hockey is an in-road to their lives.”

Edwards is excited for the film’s premiere at the Whistler Film Festival on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 and expects it will be picked up by an online streaming service next year.

While the film took him four years to complete, he isn’t taking any time off. Edwards has already started work on his next project, a documentary about the North Korean women’s international soccer team.

For more information about the film visit the documentary’s website here.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bhagwan Mayer. (Photo submitted)
Organizer of transporting the World’s Largest Hockey Stick to Cowichan remembered

Bhagwan Mayer a “hard-working fellow who cared about his community.”

Paula Foot narrates a collection of stories to appeal to the imaginations of the young and young at heart with a new album​ ‘Moments with Miss Paula: Stories for Fall and Winter’. (Submitted)
New album of stories from Cowichan storyteller offers children a world of magic

The stories will appeal to six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds

The VIJHL's Kerry Park Islanders' games have been cancelled due to COVID-19.
Isles victorious before league shutdown

The Kerry Park Islanders were able to sneak in one last game… Continue reading

Lake Cowichan’s Oliver Finlayson, second from left, and his family — including grandma Marnie Mattice, sister Avery, mom Amie Mattice and dad Blair Finlayson — were all smiles on Nov. 16 when their pool arrived, thanks to lots of fundraising and the generosity of the Cowichan Lake community. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan Lake community comes together to help family get vital pool

Oliver Finlayson, 9, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and hydrotherapy is a big help

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Penny Hart is emotional outside the Saanich Police Department as she pleads for helpt to find her son Sean Hart last seen Nov. 6 at a health institution in Saanich. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Mother of missing Saanich man begs public to help find her son

Sean Hart last seen leaving Saanich mental health facility Nov. 6

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Most Read