Official selection of the 2008 Ann Arbor Film Festival.
Jim Finn's THE JUCHE IDEA is an uproarious and provocative deconstruction of North Korean propaganda and philosophy. Mixing together eye-popping archival footage with deadpan re-enactments, Finn has created a complex docu-fiction that is equally thought-provoking and entertaining. Translated as "self-reliance," Juche (CHOO-chay) is a hybrid of Confucian and Stalinist thought that Kim Jong-il adapted from his father and applied to the entire culture. In THE JUCHE IDEA, a sympathetic South Korean filmmaker visits a North Korean artists' colony to bring Juche ideas into the 21st century. She ends up producing hilariously stilted shorts, including a nonsensical sci-fi story and the enigmatic DENTURES OF IMPERIALISM. Inspired by the true story of how a South Korean director was kidnapped in the 1970s to invigorate the North's movie industry, THE JUCHE IDEA is both sardonic satire and historical excavation, an exuberant collage that reveals the absurdity at the heart of Kim-Jong-il's regime.
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Your choice: if, like me, you like to know only enough about a film beforehand to decide whether you think you would like to watch it, then stop reading these reviews and don't examine too carefully the long list of genres into which Fandor has categorized this film. Or, if you'd like to know more about what you'd be getting in to -- because you'd certainly be getting in to something -- read up on it before watching it. Hopefully it isn't giving away too much even to mention that you'd be taking part in an experiment. Please do report back here on your results.
When the end credits roll (including, noteably, a shout out to Pauline Oliveros and her collaborator as purveyors of "Capitalist Music") it becomes evident that one has been watching a mockumentary, not a proper doc. All the scenes in the "artists' collective" and the "science fiction film" were shot in Rochester!
Frankly, I resent wasting my time watching something masquerading as a documentary, when my knowledge of NK media, has informed me more than adequately, and has certainly convinced me that to show the art of the KJ regime in a harsh light, as patently ridiculous, no extra lampooning/exaggeration on the part of the auteur is required.
The films' lowest points are certainly these idiotic English language lessons on tape in which ineptly matched shots of a dialogue between a heavily accented Korean speaker with and an utterly zombie-like Russian character, who can barely make himself intelligible in English. Who needs this lame satire of the North Korean media, which, I repeat is unintentionally self mocking enough for anyone raised outside of that country (and undoubtedly large numbers of people stuck there as well)?
The artist in residence upon whom the film centers, with her experimental-toned-down-to-slightly-expressionistic bent, would hardly find support in NK. And it kinda bothered me that her intelligence as a character is pretty pronounced but then she makes these ridiculous attempts at Juche art. Although, again, there are more ridiculous examples of the same dichotomy simply by turning one's attention to them, without going for "added punch" of "comedy" or what have you, that might be mined from just about anywhere: east / west / north / south!
So I have to give this film a low rating since I presume Mr. Finn isn't going to follow this up with mockery of art in the west, which is the only way it might... come to focus on any POINT of making such work as this.
Skip it and watch "Kimjongilia" for a much more significant experience.
The description of this movie is right-on--It's very interesting. If you don't know anything about North or South Korea, this is worth a watch...
bizarre beyond belief.