Right after SPACE TOURISTS I headed into THE RED CHAPEL, by Danish filmmaker Mads Brügger, for a surreal journey to North Korea. Brügger travels to North Korea under the guise of directing a theater troupe that promotes cultural understanding. The troupe, consisting of Simon the straight man and Jacob the self proclaimed spastic are both Danish Koreans who have never been to Korean. The film is a crazy mix of the theater of the absurd and political activism. It reminded me, in some ways, of BORAT. But instead of making fun of the soft targets of American society, THE RED CHAPEL attempts to expose the dictatorship for the “evil and demonic” oppressor that it is. Not sure if they accomplished that but it did reveal a lot about a country that most people don’t know: the capitol city is virtually deserted, there are no handicapped persons to be seen and that Kim Jong-ill wrote a book on how to make a great movie.
With my mind reeling from images of space junk scrappers and robot-like 5 year olds performing for their Dear Leader, I make my way to my last film of the day, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, directed by Davis Guggenheim. The film examines the current state of the US education system, which is an enormous undertaking. Guggenheim uses archival footage, animation, charts, interviews and the stories of 5 children to tackle this beast. The stories of the kids were most effective and I wish Guggenheim had spent more time with them. But the ending is suspenseful and does a good job of conveying just how big of a mess we are in.