Wednesday, 25 June 2008

EIFF: The Juche Idea - Review by Maria Velez-Serna

Director: Jim Finn
Running Time: 62 mins

A spoof documentary about the official aesthetics of North Korea’s autocratic regime, The Juche Idea is both hilarious and spooky for its verisimilitude. The montage (in the Eisenstenian sense) of archive footage, pop songs, Kim Jong Il’s treatise on cinema, and ‘art’ videos by a fictional new convert, is an adventure in re-contextualization. It’s propaganda, but what for? The film walks the fine line between lampooning a grotesque regime, and delivering a Borat-like parody of exoticised cultures for Western complacency. Finn fails to notice, for instance, that our ‘democracies’ also have alienating kitsch and ridiculous parades, only privatized; and the ‘Juche’ film guides are almost less reductive than a Hollywood scriptwriting handbook. But finally, The Juche Idea uses the propaganda conceit to introduce a direct, ‘thorough and sharp’ critique of capitalism, reminiscent of Godard’s La Chinoise. And that is the greatest compliment I can possibly put forward.

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