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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Jun. 19, 2010 | 1:35 PM

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LA Film Festival Pick: THE RED CHAPEL

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Winner of the 2010 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentary, Danish director Brugger’s film displays equal parts courage and lunacy as he travels with two Danish-Koreans into the heart of Kim Jong Il’s North Korea.  The project was set up as a “cultural exchange” between the two countries, but it doesn’t take long for Brugger and company to learn that the only culture that is ever exchanged in the DRPK is that which is approved by “the Dear Leader”.  Add in the fact that Jacob, one of Brugger’s charges only speaks “spastic Danish” and is confined to a wheelchair, and the result is a movie that is unpredictable, terrifying, and hilarious all at the same time.

Brugger proclaims in the film that “Comedy is the soft spot of every dictatorship”, and while this doesn’t prove to be exactly true in the case of the North Koreans, the experience does bring out some unexpectedly human cracks in the hard face of the regime.  Brugger’s methods are more than a little shaky, ethics wise, as he’s essentially lying about his intentions to everyone he meets, but there’s no denying the power of the end result.

The Red Chapel plays as part of the LA Film Fest on Saturday, June 19th at 7:30 at the Downtown Independent, and Thursday, June 24th at the Regal Cinemas at LA Live.  Director Mads Brugger is expected to attend the Saturday screening.

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