6.0/10
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3 user 9 critic

The Juche Idea (2008)

Ready for a Marxist-Leninist-musical documentary? The Busby Berkeley of propaganda, Jim Finn, follows a South Korean video artist in North Korea who hopes to revitalize Juche cinema, ... See full summary »

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Jung Yoon Lee ...
Yoon Jung
Daniela Kostova ...
Russian Woman
Sung Kim ...
North Korean Man
Oleg Mavromatti ...
Russian Man
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Ready for a Marxist-Leninist-musical documentary? The Busby Berkeley of propaganda, Jim Finn, follows a South Korean video artist in North Korea who hopes to revitalize Juche cinema, somewhat inspired by a true story of a South Korean filmmaker kidnapped in the 70s to make the North Korean film industry better. In the mod 60s, film-fanatic Kim Jong Il adapted his father's Juche (pronounced choo-CHAY) philosophy to propaganda, film and art. Translated as self-reliance, Juche is a hybrid of Confucian and authoritarian Stalinist pseudo-socialism. Finn is the undisputed champion of propaganda as pure art, and this is his best yet. He uses the tools of traditional documentary, formal avant-garde, language lesson videos, and some sci-fi recreations to dig down to the souls of governments, leaders and media manipulation. No kitsch mockumentary, just careful analysis of the love of cinema that is as surreally funny as it is truth. Isn't art revolutionary? Is there humanism within all those ... Written by Mike Plante

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28 May 2010 (USA)  »

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a heavy handed mockumentary, the doc "Kimjongilia" is a better investment of your time
19 January 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

When the end credits roll (including, notably, a shout out to Pauline Oliveros and her collaborator as purveyors of "Capitalist Music") it becomes evident that one has been watching a mockumentary, not a proper doc. All the scenes in the "artists' collective" and the "science fiction film" were shot in Rochester! Frankly, I resent wasting my time watching this comedy masquerading as a documentary, when my prior knowledge of the essentially tragic subject of the state of the arts in North Korea and its context - gained simply from watching the far more serious and easily far superior work "Kimjongilia" - goes well beyond anything offered by The Juche Idea. Watch that film, you'll immediately grasp that to depict the HK media in a harsh light, no lampooning/exaggeration on the part of a madcap auteur is necessary.

The films' lowest points are certainly these idiotic English language lessons on tape presenting dialog cutting between 2 ineptly matched shots featuring a heavily accented Korean speaker and an utterly zombie-like Russian 'actor', about as articulate in English as the Frankenstein monster. This is satire? It strikes me as pretty lame, not terribly funny and certainly not worth trotting out at intervals some 3 or 4 times. Or, or...was this entracte of language tapes one of the sections of real "found footage"? One can't be sure once the 'mixed bag' nature of the film's sources is revealed at the very end. This brings us to the most critical question of all: at this point, who the hell cares?!

The fictional artist in residence upon whom the film centers, with her experimental-toned-down-to-slightly-expressionistic bent, would hardly find support in NK. And it rather bothered me that her intelligence as a character seems pretty pronounced but then she produces laughably unintelligent attempts at Juche film and poetry. Not that such people don't exist, in droves, my dear. East, west, north, south shoot the artist holding forth, shoot the art: instant comedy/satire will result in discouraging quantities... Why fake this?

So, I have to give this film a really low rating since I presume Mr. Finn isn't going to follow this up with mockery of art in the west, which is the only way "The Juche Idea" might... come to achieving any context justifying its existence, as far as I'm concerned.

SKIP THIS AND WATCH "KIMGJONGILIA" which is a far more significant film. You'll get plenty "hilarity" at the expense of 'the Juche thing', but set off, not with strained attempts to amp up the laff riot aspect, but rather with sobering material about real peoples' miserable experiences and the day to day political backdrop of this tragic Kingdom of Kim Jong deifying Kitsch. All "the Juche idea" really adds to this is some exposure of a number of predictable, not terribly fascinating soundbites from the "film theory" writings of Kim Jong Il.


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