The Pyongyang University of Cinematic and Dramatic Arts. This was where we hung out last week. The university doesn’t look like much from the outside. But gaining admission into this institution is apparently a big deal in North Korea, a stepping stone to one of the most coveted jobs in the country. Every young North Korean, we’re told, wants to be a film worker.

Prior to our arrival, no foreigner had ever been granted permission to film at the university before. Our quest for a permit to do so started more than two years ago. The process, suffice to say, was tortuous. But we’re glad we persisted.

They were busy working on a new project when we first arrived. It’s hard to tell from the way the students were dressed, but it was freezing. Minus 6 degrees outside, and not much better inside.

Mobile phones, they’re everywhere in Pyongyang these days.

Yun Mi and Un Bom, all dressed up and ready to rehearse.

The rehearsal.

The students’ short film is a comedy with a serious purpose – to remind North Koreans of their country’s excellent healthcare system.

The dry run. It was impossibly cold that day and there was no indoor heating. My teeth were chattering. I couldn’t feel my toes. Everyone off set was desperately trying to keep warm in their winter coats and woollen hats. Amazing how the actors managed to get on with their work.

Filming was disrupted by a power cut – the first of several we witnessed while in Pyongyang. The students stopped, cracked a few jokes, rehearsed their lines, then calmly resumed the dry run when the lights came on again. They were used to the lack of electricity. Used to the cold. Used to making do. Plus they had to get back to the very important job of telling their fellow citizens why they should all be grateful to be living in the best country in the world.