Grace, a wide-eyed gangster's daughter brought up under the unique power assumptions of organized crime, accidentally stumbles opon a plantation that employs slaves – 70 years after the end of the Civil War. At first, she thinks she can just free the slaves with a few stock phrases about liberty and then drive off with her band of thugs to the next town; when she realizes it's not that simple, she stays behind under the guise of teaching the plantation residents, black and white, "how to be human beings."
And so begins Manderlay, Lars von Trier's latest school play version of American history, the follow-up to Dogville in a proposed trilogy titled "America the Beautiful." To call that title "ironic" wouldn't even begin to approach what Lars von Trier is all about. This isn't the kind of "irony" where you say you love Baywatch when you know it's bad. This is the "irony" of saying that black people would be better off as slaves, because you know it'll make people mad.