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Film Review: The Lovers And The Despot - Dare To Be Wild

North Korea's de-facto leader, movie mad Kim Jong-il's plan to put his country on the cinematic world stage by kidnapping a leading South Korean actress and her director husband is pieced together in 'The Lovers and the Despot' but this stranger-than-fiction tale has a feel that there's more to this story - A clear ecological message is part of 'Dare To Be Wild,' Vivienne de Courcy's feature debut which relates the story of Irish garden designer, Mary Reynolds quest for gold at London's 2002 Chelsea Flower Show but it's rather twee with cringe worthy caricature figures slotted in.

Director: Robert Cannan, Ross Adam. Paul Courtenay Hyu. Documentary. English. Japanese, Korean with English subtitles. UK 2016 95 mins. (PG) ***

Movie-mad Kim Jong-il, the powerful, unpredictable North Korean de facto leader kidnapping a leading South Korean actress and her film director husband to use their talents to place North Korea on cinemas world stage has a Pythonesque, fact stranger-than-fiction touch.

The leader wasn't happy with North Korea's movies. 'Why are there so many crying scenes?' 'All of our films have crying scenes'. 'Why do all of our films have the same ideological plot?' The leader wanted change and award winning actress Choi Eun-hee and her recently divorced, ambitious film director husband Shin Sang-ok dropped into North Korea's kidnap sights.

Moving to Hong Kong to further her career, Choi disappeared on 11th January 1978 and Shin, whose career had taken a nose dive disappeared later. Choi and Shin were Kim Jong-il's guests in his cinematic fantasy world and production began. 17 films later they enacted the great escape to the American embassy in Vienna in 1986 but not everyone believed their story.

Based around an interview with Choi, taking heads, secret tape recordings and archive footage, this stranger-than-fiction tale has a feel that there's far more to the story.

Released 23rd September

Director: Vivienne de Courcy. Emma Greenwich, Tom Hughes, Alex Macqueen, Janie Dee. Drama. Ireland 2016 100 mins. (PG) **

It can't be easy to to make a film around garden design but Vivienne de Courcy centres her feature debut with a clear ecological message on the true story of Irish garden designer Mary Reynolds and her quest for a Gold Medal at London's 2002 Chelsea Flower Show with her 'wild' Celtic Sanctuary design.

Money's short, a snooty, loves-herself-a-lot, darling, Dublin celebrity garden designer, Charlotte Heave (Christine Marzano) whom Mary Rynolds works for pinches her design ideas and Christie (Tom Hughes), who's caught Mary's eye seems more interested in Ethiopian irrigation projects. Not a happy day for our gardener. It's press on Mary, follow Christie to Ethiopia, win his heart, get your application into Chelsea, have a brief chat with the champion gardener, Prince Charles who's wandering through and takes a wrong turn and go for it.

Beautifully shot, with the message of man and the environment, the wild and wild nature, but it's all rather twee with cringe worthy caricature figures slotted in.

Released 23rd September

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