French distributor PrettyPictures has bought North Korean hit TheSchoolgirl's Diary, marking the first commercial deal for a North Koreanfilm to a Western country in recent decades.

James Velaise, president ofPretty Pictures, attended the Pyongyang International Film Festival inSeptember where The Schoolgirl's Diary,a local hit with 8 million admissions, was screened. Negotiations started in Pyongyang but only closed today (Oct 18).

Velaise is coincidentallyattending the Asian Film Market in South Korea and has been communicating withthe film's international sales rep Korfilm (the Korean Film Export & ImportCorp) by email and fax.

"We made genuine advancementduring the days I was in Pyongyang,but as you can imagine, they have various levels of approval and it was onlytoday that we closed the deal," said Velaise.

"We're hoping for a Cannes slot for TheSchoolgirl's Dairy," Velaise continued. "I believe in this film as acuriosity, also as an honest description of everyday life in North Korea, and as a very well-made film that portrays theaverage schoolgirl's aspirations for a better life."

The girl, disgruntled thather scientist father is never home, dreams of moving out of their country houseto a high-rise apartment in the city. Velaise says what makes the filminteresting is that it is not a propaganda film, but a film about the ordinarylife of a young schoolgirl in Pyongyang, played by a very talented andattractive young actress.

North Korean leader KimJong-il, a well-known cinephile, advised on the script which was directed byJang In-hak.

Pretty Pictures has acquiredall French rights for The Schoolgirl'sDiary, along with three classic North Korean films, including 60sblack-and-white film Flower Girl.

The company has seen successin France distributing such titles as Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter' and Springand 3-Iron, and Hur Jin-ho's April Snow. Recent South Koreanacquisitions include Im Sang-soo's TheOld Garden as a pre-buy.

The Schoolgirl's Diary was one of the two films produced in North Korea in the past year.