Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sundance Films: The Red Chapel

Title: The Red Chapel

Director: Mads Brügger

Website: no individual site, but click here for Sundance page

Summary: A journalist with no scruples and two Danish/Korean comedians—one a self-proclaimed "spastic"—travel to North Korea under the guise of a cultural exchange. On the pretext of being a small Danish theatre group, named The Red Chapel, they are allowed into the country, but unbeknownst to the North Koreans, cultural exchange is not really what they have in mind. Mads Brügger, the journalist; Simon, the straight man; and Jacob, the spastic, use humor to challenge one of the world’s most notorious regimes. The troupe rehearse under the watchful eye of government officials brought in to "collaborate" on their performance and make it more palatable for the Korean regime. They are shown the important historical sights by a female government employee, who smothers poor Jacob with motherly affection. Fusing elements of activist filmmaking with theater of the absurd, The Red Chapel is an acerbic romp, as subversive as it is wildly original (Sundance).

Thoughts: I'm going on record and stating this is not a documentary I'm looking forward to seeing. Perhaps I will come around, but political theater for the sake of revealing absurdities is a fine line few can walk and frankly, Red Chapel doesn't walk it. Hurting it's cause, the film's trailer begins by stating (matter of factly) that North Korea is the most evil dictatorship in the world. I'm not supporting North Korea, but I'm pretty sure there have been worse regimes in history and there arguably still are some today. Over simplifying never helps anyone. Skip this one unless there are drastically positive rumblings from the Sundance community.

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