The Red Chapel: learning to laugh at North Korea
THE Red Chapel is a feature documentary shot in North Korea and edited. It was awarded the judges special prize in world documentary cinema at the Sundance Film Festival 2010.
A journalist with no scruples, a spastic, and a comedian travel to North Korea with a mission – to challenge the conditions of the smile in one of the world’s most notorious regimes. The Red Chapel chronicles the amusing and often bizarre encounters between this Danish theatre troupe and their North Korean hosts in a one of a kind, East-meets-West-meets-East look at cultural exchange in the modern world’s last anti-globalist bastion.
Mads Brügger is accompanied by Jacob Nossell and Simon Jul. He says:
“If the North Koreans ever were able to understand the Danish language, they would never be able to understand spastic Danish.”
The most fascinating character in the film may be Mrs. Pak, the motherly, slightly creepy government functionary assigned to be the caretaker for Brügger and the two young Danish-Koreans who make up the “comedy troupe” that Brügger “directs.” There is nothing to suggest that she is a bad or malevolent person. Her belief in the fundamental greatness of her country and her government, and in the “values” of unity and togetherness used to keep North Koreans in line, is wholehearted and pure. She can’t talk about the Dear Leader without being emotionally overcome. Aside from the mentally ill, I’ve never seen a human being who exists so completely in an alternate universe. It’s terrifying.
Mads convinces their escort, Mrs. Pak, to allow him to read a poem in front of the statue of Kim Il-Sung, to which all visiting foreigners are required to pay homage. He claims it’s by a famous Danish worker’s rights writer. It’s not. It goes as follows: “Love is like a pineapple / Sweet and undefinable.”