I am a fan of Finnish film and on each trip to Finland I come home with new DVDs. When I go shopping it is often a treasure hunt, and by that I don’t mean my search for these DVDs. They’re easy enough to find; it’s the DVD region coding that is often hidden in the most minuscule font. I have spent many minutes staring at DVD cases, looking all over for the region or zone code. If it’s anything other than region one or zero, I don’t buy it. Unfortunately I have had to pass up buying two of my favourite Finn flix that I have even seen in Helsinki theatres: “Nousukausi” and “Aleksis Kiven elämä”. When these films came out on DVD I was sad to find that the coding was not compatible with my North American DVD player.
My favourite Finnish band, Värttinä, released its “Archive Live” DVD five years ago. I was excited about it not only because I love the music and the chance to see the band’s videos for the first time, but also because I know that I am somewhere featured in the DVD. I bought it when I was in Finland in 2007 yet was mightily disappointed to find out that it was not region-free. I have it but alas have never seen it.
During my trip to the DPRK I bought many DVDs, and was reassured that they would be compatible if not on my DVD player, then on my computer. I was not optimistic about any of these DVDs playing on either piece of equipment, but when you’re in North Korea of all places and given the opportunity to buy movies made over there, you buy them first and worry about watching them later.
Only two in my stack of DVDs would play on my DVD player. I am happy that one of them was the musical “The Flower Girl”, one of the most popular films from the North. Inasmuch as popularity can be measured when assessing North Korean film, “The Flower Girl” at least has been shown to audiences outside the DPRK.
All of my propaganda DVDs were incompatible with my players. A friend advised me to go to a large Asian mall just north of Toronto to buy an all-region DVD player, where one can buy brand names at low prices. Mark and I shopped around yesterday and I even brought all the DVDs I had from Finland and the DPRK to test them out. I was squealing with delight as I popped in each disc and the opening menus appeared. We walked out with a region-free player and now when I shop for DVDs, whether in Helsinki or on a return trip to Pyongyang, I will not worry about what zones they are.