June 3, 2010 / 12:21 AM / 9 years ago

North Korea-set mockumentary a sly satire

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - The ideas of that noted film theorist and critic Kim Jong-il are the subject of “The Juche Idea,” experimental filmmaker Jim Finn’s satirical effort set in North Korea. The film opened recently in New York.

Finn, a cinematic provocateur whose previous works dealt with the similarly repressive ideologies of Soviet Russia and Peru, has devised a mockumentary about a South Korean video artist (Jung Yoon Lee) who has taken up residence in a North Korean artists’ colony. For those unfamiliar with the term, Juche is a philosophy embraced by the notoriously daffy Korean leader — an avowed film buff — that uses the concept of self-reliance as a springboard for a doctrine that demands total obeisance of the people to the will of their leader.

Needless to say, it’s not a tough subject to find ridiculous, as illustrated by the numerous clips from North Korean feature films and documentaries on display that don’t exactly make you hungry to see them in their entirety. But the filmmaker has more sly things on his mind as well, poking fun at the pretensions of artists in general and his central character in particular via increasingly silly interview sequences and mock examples of her work, which includes such efforts as “The Tiny Dentures of Imperialism.”

The film’s satirical commentary about the intersection of politics and art is rarefied, to be sure, but there is enough pointed humor in its execution to make “The Juche Idea” a provocative, if intellectually challenging, experience.

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