Mrs B, A North Korean Woman (“Madame B., histoire d'une Nord-Coréenne”), by Jero Yun
Mrs B, A North Korean Woman was born from an encounter between South Korean director Jero Yun, who emigrated to France at the age of 21, and a woman fleeing from North Korea who was detained for several years in China.
Born in South Korea
Born in Busan, South Korea in 1980, documentary film-maker Jero Yun did not speak a word of French when he arrived in France at the age of 21. He enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Nancy, and then at the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs in Paris, in the photo/video department.
In France, he discovered another story of the two Koreas, far from the South Korean propaganda with its extreme demonization of its neighbour. The constant tension between the two countries is thus at the heart of both his work and his personal search for identity.
It was during a residency at Le Fresnoy National Studio of Contemporary Arts from 2008 to 2010 that he made his first short films: Self-portrait Into Hell (“Autoportrait aux enfers”, 2009) and Red Road (2010).
A deeply Korean tale
Produced in 2016, the documentary, Mrs B, A North Korean Woman describes the life of a mother who dreams of living in South Korea. The first step is for her to spend a year working in China, but dishonest traffickers sell her to a poor farmer and she in turn becomes a trafficker to earn a living.
Gradually, her Chinese husband replaces her North Korean husband in her heart. After 10 years, he allows her to rejoin her children, who are refugees in South Korea, where she is interrogated by the local intelligence services.
This was a life far from what Mrs B expected, but is nevertheless representative of the tensions between South Korea and its neighbours.
When Jero Yun met his subject
Jero Yun met Mrs B through a network of traffickers that helps North Korean refugees flee to China, South Korea and the United States, and which he had gotten to know for his previous project, Looking for North Koreans (“À la recherche des Coréens du Nord”, 2012). Mrs B hosted the director in her home in China for several weeks, told him her story and introduced him to other refugees.
Gradually, Mrs B became the main character of the film. The other refugees were recognized in The Long Way South, an interactive transmedia documentary co-directed with Tawan Arun, produced in parallel with Mrs B, A North Korean Woman.
An internationally successful documentary
Co-produced by Zorba Production (France) and Su:M (South Korea), Mrs B, A North Korean Woman had its South Korean première at the Jeonju Festival in 2016, then its international première at the Cannes Film Festival in the same year, as part of the ACID (Association for independent cinema and its distribution) selection.
Lauded by international critics, in 2016 the film received the Silver George for best documentary at the International Film Festival in Moscow, as well as the Œil d’or for best international documentary at the Zurich Film Festival. It was in nominated at DOK.fest, the Munich documentary film festival, in 2017.
Mrs. B., a North Korean Woman (“Madame B, histoire d’une Nord-Coréenne”, 2016), by Jero Yun, was supported Aide aux cinémas du monde fund in 2014.
This Institut français programme provides support to foreign film-makers for film projects co-produced with France, whether they be feature-length fiction, animated films or creative documentaries.