The North Korean Hollywood: Cholliwood

Dear Reader,

We have Hollywood in the US, Bollywood in India, Nollywood in Nigeria… So why not finding the exact replica in North Korea as well?

Our North Korea tour certainly enlightened us on many things, I probably didn’t pay much attention to the itinerary they sent us at the beginning because I remember being very surprised when we arrived into this films studio. It’s nickname is Cholliwood.

Alley of the Cholliwood Films Studio, else known as Pyongyang Film Studio.
Alley of the Cholliwood Films Studio, else known as Pyongyang Film Studio.

According to what our guide was telling us, the Pyongyang Film Studios had a big shining moment in the late 1970’s, where the studio produced many films with specific themes: anti-Japanese, anti-US Imperialism and somehow even China has a place here.

It seems like Kim Jong-il’s love for movies got completely out of hand in the late 1970s when he had two South Korean actors (husband and wife) abducted. He wanted to have them working for him, producing films for him and North Korea.

After the demise of the films époque, the escape of the two abducted actors and the critical situation of the country which led to famine, the film industry collapsed. However, me and my friends were lucky to see that even though it is almost completely disused we could still find some people working in it.

The entire idea of Cholliwood (from Chollima) is to recreate from ancient Korea to nowadays, from Japanese streets to Korean and Chinese towns, buildings, and époque.

This is part of the Japanese 1930’s set.

Facts about the Pyongyang Film Studios are hard to find and the propaganda certainly doesn’t help uncovering truths, not even about its size and number of studio staff. Some sources claim that the studio produces 20 movies a year, others say that it churns out up to 60, while critics claim that only one or two movies are produced a year and higher numbers include documentaries and shorts films.

But the buildings are still there for us to see, here are some views of this peculiar place


Only few people were around that day but we could still see enough.

On that day some of the crew were working on signs to be used in the respective scenarios.


The following signs would have been used in the Japanese set

And finally a simple truck which I assume is used as part of a war movie given its rusty look.

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Art of the Day: The Rape of Persephone/Proserpina

Dear Reader,

As soon as I saw this statue I was completely mesmerised by it. It is called the Rape of Proserpina or Abduction of Proserpina (Ratto di Proserpina) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the year 1622. As he was Italian he used the Roman names of the Greek gods. I will use Persephone and Kore, the Greek original ones.

I know the story by heart as it’s one of my favourites, and as intense as it is, only a very intense piece of art could represent it the best way. Bernini did it. And majestically.

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Hades and Persephone in one of the most beautiful and dramatic representations of this myth. Photo source: Google.

Brief story of Persephone (Kore) and Hades:

Hades was the god of the Underworld, therefore god of all the dead, good and bad, and god of all the precious gems and stones that are found in the the underground. He was lonely, very grumpy and as you can imagine with very bad luck with women. Every attempt of seduction failed miserably. He never left the Underworld unless he had business to do or when he is overcome by sudden lust. Tired of his failed attempts he asks his brother Zeus to give him Kore as his wife. Kore (in greek means ‘young girl’) was a young joyous girl, daughter of Demeter, jealous goddess of harvest and agriculture. Zeus knew that by giving his consent he would have to confront the severe Demeter so he unwillingly gave the permission to his older brother to take Persephone to the underworld.

The coming of Kore to the Underworld symbolises the beginning of autumn and then winter, as the mother cried her daughter disappearance by shutting down any agriculture growth and prosperity on Earth. This fact prompted to her name changed into Persephone, which means ‘her who brings destruction‘ in terms of life and vegetation. Negotiations were made in such way that it was decreed that Persephone would spend six months in the underworld with her new husband (autumn and winter) and the rest of the year with her mother Demeter (spring and summer).

This piece of art is a delicate balance of violence and seduction, bodies binding together with excellent attention paid to details that give it an effect of firmness and strength.

Hades grip on Persephone’s thigh. Photo source: Google.
Photo source: Google.

Persephone’s desperation is remarkable in this piece of work as her eyes and tears portray the fear and anger upon being taken away from her mother, Demeter, and her home town to be dragged in the Underworld.

Persephone’s desperation is shown by her tears and features. Photo source: Google.
Photo source: Google.

How to take photos of butterflies

Dear Reader,

Photos are awesome, and even more if you manage to take shots of particularly difficult animals. Clearly I’m still learning and I was VERY lucky this butterfly just stayed there on that flower for so long!

I can’t say butterflies are too difficult either as sometimes they do fly away slowly, but it is a challenge indeed when you see one so beautiful flying over a flower.

This is a butterfly I found in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. Michoacán is famous for its butterflies and every year you can witness the famous Monarch Butterfly migrating from south of the United States and Canada towards warmer Mexico.

These are some of the tips I learned (and still learning) as a beginner amateur photographer that I can pass you, hoping that your next butterfly stays as still as mine:

  1. Get a little down: Some of my best photos are taken lying down or kneeling. Not only butterfly seem to be less scared but also many of them, including monarchs, contrast beautifully against a blue sky background. It’s much better and more dramatic to have a blue sky background from ground level that merge with the butterfly colours.
  2. Get your settings right and play with them: It doesn’t matter how good your camera is if your settings are wrong for shooting butterflies outdoors. For instance, you’ll often need a faster shutter speed to prevent blur associated with a fast-moving subject. You can also play with your Settings in order to adjust the ISO (which is the sensitivity of the image sensor) to manage the movements of the butterfly and shoot it timely.
  3. Photo Editing Software: my camera actually does a good job by itself but if not there is rarely a photo or video you take that won’t need some editing. The editing program I use has lots of photoshop functionality, without the photoshop price and is included in my mac and it has served me well for the use of my blog readers 🙂

These are some things I use editing software for on a regular basis on my Mac Book with the Photo application within the new Yosemite theme:

  • cropping photos and centring them
  • sharpening images that are slightly out of focus
  • minor color adjustments or enhancements

Know thy camera, dear Reader, because colourful butterflies and humming birds move really fast so you want to try with a familiar camera to be ready at the right moment! Just have a few trials with your camera before attempting immortalise butterflies and other flying creatures. Stanito was purely lucky this time with the lazy butterfly 🙂 !

Cutest calf ever!

Dear Reader

since I got my new camera I’m going around taking photos of the best moments. Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes not so much.

However, I do consider the following shot to be an absolute luck: Travel Buddy and I were exploring the inlands of Michoacán, regarded by some as the most dangerous state of Mexico, when I suddenly found a cow milking her calf.

Sicilians vs Superstitions: the Black Cat

Dear Reader,

If someone wanted to list (and I’m sure that someone has done it already) all superstitions present in different cultures, I can assure you the list would be very very long. Every thing, or person, or event could potentially bring us good luck, bad luck or all sort positive/negative effects.

Luckily, I have two Sicilian flatmates – Angelo and Teresa – who are more than happy to share their beliefs with me anytime something of valuable significance happens, and I enjoy those moments like crazy 🙂 Continue reading “Sicilians vs Superstitions: the Black Cat”