As a TV series on Danish television back in 2006, "The Red Chapel" created a stir. Was it fair to base a documentary series on a falsehood, did the filmmakers put the lives of their North Korean hosts at stake, and would the whole project make it impossible for journalists to enter the country in the future?
Eight venues in one month
Mads Brügger's 90 minute film version of the original TV series won the World Cinema Jury Prize at Sundance, giving the documentary new momentum on the international festival circuit: the film will be showing at no less than eight venues during the next month.
"We are experiencing a lot of interest as well," says Christina Müller, responsible for the "The Red Chapel"'s US sales, "and the key attraction is indeed the film's satirical approach."
Uncustomary vantage point
Mads Brügger and his two co-conspirators Jacob Nossell and Simon Jul pretend to be a small communist theatre company on a cultural exchange trip. They expose the living conditions under "The Dear Leader" from a humorous vantage point, uncustomary for films on North Korea.
"In general, they deal more straightforwardly with the heavy issues – the dictatorship, poverty, food shortage etc," says Christina Müller. "Here we have a film with a very different angle. The filmmakers have fabricated a background for themselves that takes a humorous stance on the matter, and there is this extra twist that the two comedians in the "company" are adopted from Korea."
From Austin and New York to Istanbul and Budapest
"The Red Chapel" won for Best Documentary at Nordisk Panorama in Reykjavik in September and at this year's Sundance. The film is programmed at eight festivals during the next month:
Austin SXSW Film Festival, Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London, the New Directors/New Films Festival at the Lincoln Center in New York, Vilnius Film Festival, Haag Amnesty Movies that Matter Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, and Budapest Titanic Film Festival.