In North Korea, Copies of 'The Interview' Will Fall From the Skies

The non-profit group Human Rights Foundation plans to balloon-drop copies of the James Franco and Seth Rogan comedy into the communist country.

If you were hoping to see “The Interview” at your neighborhood Regal or AMC theater, or perhaps at your local art-house cinema, I’m sorry, no dice. You might consider a visit to North Korea instead, since it may show there sooner. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the human rights group Fighters for a Free North Korea is planning to get DVDs of the film to the country by hydrogen balloon.

The North Korean landscape is famously colorless; the reporter Barbara Demick wrote in her book Nothing To Envy that, for most of the year, “everything is yellow and brown, the color leached away and faded.” It is into that bleak terrain that human rights activists have taken to airlifting transistor radios and DVDs, as well as books, leaflets, and other educational materials. 

Fighters for a Free North Korea, which is headed by Park Sang Hak, a former government propagandist who escaped to South Korea, has dispatched hydrogen balloons to North Korea for a number of years. They are launched from secret locations in South Korea, equipped with acid-based timers that break open plastic bags. They cruise two miles high, to prevent from being shot down.

Thor Halvorssen, the founder and CEO of the Human Rights Foundation, is helping to fund the impending round of “Interview” airdrops. His organization has previously bankrolled the smuggling of DVD players into North Korea, and the extra-special delivery of films like “Braveheart” and TV shows like “Desperate Housewives." Halvorssen told THR, “Viewing any one of these is a subversive act that could get you executed, and North Koreans know this, given the public nature of the punishments meted out to those who dare watch entertainment from abroad.”

Last October, a 21-year-old North Korean escapee named Yeonmi Park, spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum about how watching a smuggled copy of "Titanic" was eye-opening. According to THR:

“When I was growing up in North Korea, I never saw anything about love stories between men and women," she said. "Every story was to brainwash about the Kim dictators. A turning point in my life was when I saw the movie 'Titanic.' … I was wondering if the director and the actors would be killed."

She said that as youngsters they are taught that dying for the Kim regime was the most honorable thing one could do, and she and other children were shown propaganda movies to that effect.

"I realized that 'Titanic' showed me a human story about love, beauty, humanity … it gave me a taste of freedom," she said in Oslo. "A man willing to die for a woman—it changed my thinking. It changed the way I saw the regime and the endless propaganda. 'Titanic' made me realize that I was controlled by the regime.”