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

Saanich police detectives are investigating a reported sexual assault that occurred near Glanford Park on the evening of Dec. 29, 2020 and have shared an artist’s rendering of the individual. (Image via Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Saanich police release sketch of suspect sought in December sexual assault

Anyone with information asked to contact detectives, Crime Stoppers

Sharon McNeill (right) was among the first batch of residents to pick up free seeds and seedlings from Ali Rivers, Central Saanich’s climate action specialist, during Thursday’s Seed Giveaway. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Central Saanich plants seeds in the fight against climate change

Seed Giveaway promotes environmental stewardship

Habitat Acquisition Trust has received provincial funding to help restore Garry oak ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Jeremy da Silva)
Central Saanich park among sites for local Garry oak restoration projects

Habitat Acquisition Trust received $140,000 in funding for 12 projects

Stanley Fischer (right) died while in a Victoria police jail cell hours after he was arrested on Nov. 15, 1981. Forty years later, his family is questioning his cause of death. (Photo courtesy of Mark Fischer)
Family wants investigation into man’s 1981 death while in Victoria police custody

Stanley Fischer’s death was ruled a suicide after he was found hanging in his jail cell

Saanich Animal Control officer Derek Rees and some helpers rescued eight ducks from a storm drain at St. Andrew’s Regional High School on May 7. The mother and her 11 babies were safely released at Swan Lake. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Teachers, officer rescue eight ducklings from Saanich school storm drain

Ducklings rescued at St. Andrew’s Regional High School, family of 12 released at Swan Lake

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland third behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The postponement of the event was put in place to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Jasmine Francoeur from Comox is an aviation technician for the Snowbirds air demonstration team. Photo by Canadian Forces/submitted
Island woman’s career comes full circle as she flies home with the Snowbirds

Jasmine Francoeur: “To fly out here, fly into my hometown, it’s very special and I feel very lucky”

Most Read