You ask why on earth would someone have The Supreme Leader immortalized on their skin? Well, according to YouTuber SlipTool1, “Tat artist and i were bored wanted something different plus its free.”
What better reason to have a batshit crazy totalitarian leader permanently etched onto your flesh, eh? They even titled the tattoo “North Korea is Best Korea.”
The Red Chapel is a new comic documentary that exposes the paranoiac culture of Kim Jong Il’s North Korean dictatorship in the form of a chronicle of a two-week trip made to the country by a deliberately bad comedy act (which includes a straight-talking spastic) purportedly there on a cultural exchange mission. It recently won the top documentary award at the Sundance film festival and the daring humor of the film is said to make Borat look tame in comparison. It’s fascinating to read that all of the footage had to be cleared on a daily basis with North Korean authorities. These guys have balls!
Here’s a documentary so astonishing that, for a time, I was convinced that I was being had—that no sane filmmakers would ever attempt, much less pull off, anything this crazy. The Internet assures me that Mads Brügger and Johan Stahl’s The Red Chapel, which won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, is very real indeed: that Brügger and a pair of comedian friends really did sneak into North Korea pretending to be a pro-Socialist vaudeville troupe there to engage in cultural exchange with local schoolchildren, that they really did get most of it on tape, and that they really did escape that fascist hellhole with life and limb intact. In the process, they’ve made a film equal parts horrifying, exhilarating and hilarious—an epic prank on the world’s most sinister dictatorship that makes Sacha Baron Cohen look like a shrinking violet in comparison.
I have an abiding fascination with North Korea, or, as it is more affectionately known, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). I think it was Christopher Hitchens who once wrote that the reason George Orwell’s writing remains relevant today is that the word “Orwellian” is the only accurate descriptor of the North Korean regime—its complete intolerance of independent thought, the elaborate false reality painstakingly constructed for its citizens, the personality cult of the Dear Leader at its center. Never mind that, as The Red Chapel informs us, the Dear Leader is personally responsible for starving countless of his own people.
The DPRK is, among other things, notoriously secretive, meticulously controlling the image it projects to the rest of the world, and taking pains to hide—with the sort of appalling disingenuousness that is the hallmark of dictatorships—what we know to be the realities of everyday life in the country. The Red Chapel, which takes place almost entirely in the country’s relatively maintained cities, doesn’t try to get at the most shocking of those realities: the incredible poverty, the starvation, the labor camps to which the “untrustworthy” are sent. But it does give us an astonishing glimpse into a world that only seems possible in dystopian fiction; a world of brainwashed sycophants literally worshipping at the altar of the Dear Leader, living out a facially ridiculous fantasy built for them by what may be the most evil government in the history of civilization.
The most fascinating character in the film may be Mrs. Pak, the motherly, slightly creepy government functionary assigned to be the caretaker for Brügger and the two young Danish-Koreans who make up the “comedy troupe” that Brügger “directs.” There is nothing to suggest that she is a bad or malevolent person. Her belief in the fundamental greatness of her country and her government, and in the “values” of unity and togetherness used to keep North Koreans in line, is wholehearted and pure. She can’t talk about the Dear Leader without being emotionally overcome. Aside from the mentally ill, I’ve never seen a human being who exists so completely in an alternate universe. It’s terrifying.
Thank you Chris Campion!
If you’re left unamused by the shameless mugging on Friends, you won’t be laughing much at this either. Who knew North Korea had a long-running sitcom on the…oh my God, beans? Hysterical!
Politically Corrected: What’s small, cuddly, and likelier than a Build-A-Bear to initiate a workers’ revolt? The Communist Cuddle Doll. Castro looks cooler with that cigar, but I’ve got my eyes on Lenin—he looks like my Grandfather! And, yes, “The Boss,” should not ever be confused with Kim Jong-Il, but if the Dear Leader can bring pizza to Pyongyang and stop that missile testing, maybe he’ll make next year’s collection?