Feb 1, 2010

An evening with Jim Finn tonight at MoMA

One of the best films I saw this year at Sundance was Dane Mads Brugger's The Red Chapel, a madcap peek inside the repressive walls of North Korea that won the World Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize on Saturday. Tonight, another filmmaker who has made a highly unusual film concerning that befuddling totalitarian country will visit MoMA. The museum's An Evening with Jim Finn will include a screening of the the versatile filmmaker's mindbending faux North Korean artist colony doc The Juche Idea and a couple of short films, Dick Cheney in a Cold, Dark Cell (2009) and la loteria (2004). I first encountered Finn's work while sitting on the Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You panel. We admired Finn's startlingly original concoction, but it wasn't ultimately one of our finalists. Still, there seemed to be a general agreement in the room that The Juche Idea was one of the most intellectually rigorous of the films we saw; of course, it would struggle to find audiences. The film follows a South Korean filmmaker who ventures into the great repressive north to revive the legendarily campy Juche cinema sponsored by that country's mad cinephile in chief, Kim Jong-Il. Using the techniques of Asian propoganda, verite documentary, B sci-fi interludes and various pits of archival footage from North Korea cinema, Finn leaves Kim Jong-Il cinematic platitudes in tatters, exposing with vicious satire the excesses and dangers of ideological purity mixed with maddening self-delusion.