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

Joyce Cooper (left) said she had to set an example for Tsilhqot’in communities by sharing her COVID-19 positive results. (Photo submitted)
Tsideldel off-reserve member documents experience of COVID-19

We should all be supporting one another and not judging each other, says Joyce Cooper

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

There are hiking trails aplenty around Quesnel, including at the West Fraser Timber Park right inside the municipality. (Submitted Photo)
Many things to do in the Cariboo

Jim Hilton’s column from Jan. 20

(Tracey Roberts Photo)
COVID-19 rule followers are not suckers

Cassidy Dankochik’s column from the Jan. 20 paper

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read