On the pretext of being a small Danish theatre troupe on a cultural exchange, the Red Chapel was granted permission by the North Korean government to stage a performance for a select audience in the capital. In reality, the small troupe comprises an unscrupulous journalist, Mads Brügger, and two Danish/Korean comedians, Jacob and Simon. Jacob is handicapped, or as he calls it, a “spastic.” Their goal is to use humour to expose the intricate effects of an oppressive regime. The film follows the troupe as they are lovingly yet firmly escorted by a motherly government employee around the important historical sights, and as they “collaborate” with other government officials on their performance. Meanwhile, their double life is wearing on Jacob who feels conflicting emotions of affection and hatred for his hosts. With a sensibility similar to that of Lars Von Triers’ The Idiots, The Red Chapel is a darkly humorous look inside the North Korean dictatorship. —Hot Docs
A film with a very curious effect, and difficult to rate. Our director/narrator announces his intent to "expose the evil of North Korea"—not exactly a difficult, daring target—and his documentary methods veer between obvious, sloppy, and reprehensible. But oddly, he seems to realize this, as the real hero of his film becomes a handicapped actor who favors empathy over cheap irony. As should we. 3 stars.
Brilliant! Mads Brugger has to not only be the ballsiest documentary maker out there today but also the one with the blackest sense of humour. If you loved the Ambassador you'll really enjoy this. He uses politically incorrect comedy as a trojan horse to assault politics-gone-wrong in North Korea. 4 stars
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