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

Kyle Topping  skates for the Cowichan Valley Capitals during the 2015-16 BCHL season. (Citizen file)
Former Caps make news in pro ranks

Kyle Topping and Laurent Brossoit mark achievements

Duncan’s City Hall will get a seismic assessment this year. (File photo)
Duncan City Hall to get seismic assessment

City hopes grants will help pay for seismic upgrades

Vandals damaged a picnic table at Spectacle Lake Park with a chainsaw earlier this month. (Linda Mills photo)
Editorial: Vandals make victims of us all

It is infuriating when people target public property for vandalism.

Vees' Jack Barnes picked up his second goal of the season in the team's 5-0 win over Merritt on Saturday. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Cowichan Capitals in deadline dilemma with 20-year-old players

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen as COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

Most Read