Winner of the Best Film of the Documentary Competition in Moscow and Best International Documentary Film in Zurich Film, "Mrs B" is a very impressive documentary, shot in true guerilla style.
Jero Yun was conducting a research for North Korean refugees in China for his previous film, "Looking for North Koreans" and spent time with a network of smugglers working between North Korea, China, South Korea and the United States. That is where he met Mrs. B. (whose actual name is not mentioned in the film), who put him in contact with North Korean refugees living clandestinely in China, and eventually in her farm where she told him her story, thus becoming the focus of this film.
The documentary follows Mrs. B's everyday life in China, which is filled with details about the smuggling of people she contacts, to the "underground" trip she takes to S. Korea, to meet her N. Korean family. At the same time, through this trip, Jero Yun presents her life story, through her own words.
Watching this documentary, I was truly shocked with the easiness she explained all that has happened and is still happening in her life. This woman decided to leave N. Korea to go to China, and in her effort, she was sold to the family of her husband in China, where, to make ends meet, she started smuggling drugs, "renting" girls to karaoke parlors and eventually smuggling people, including her N. Korean family to China, and through there, to S. Korea. Mrs B. explains all this with every detail, with a terrifying pragmatism, as she states, "If you are an illegal immigrant, there aren't many things you can do to make money".
The fact that her life is placed between countries, worlds and families and swamped in illegality does not seem to deter her in any way. The only time she actually shows she is hurt is when her husband, accidentally, gives the wrong dog (of the two they own) to his cousin.
The setting changes much when the documentary is transferred to S. Korea, where the struggles of her family in the hands of the authorities, who consider them spies, are depicted, as is their relationship with her.
Through Mrs B., Jero Yun wanted to show the bigger issue here, the realities of both trafficker and trafficked. However, and although the aforementioned is also part of the documentary, she ends up dominating the film so much, that, in the end, it becomes a biopic about her life.
Yun shot the documentary in true guerilla fashion, following Mrs B in her trafficking trip from China to Thailand and then to S. Korea, staying very close to her, at all times, thus presenting a highly realistic spectacle, which highlights her life to the fullest. Obviously, this technique resulted in a number of badly shot sequences, with the camera moving up and down. out of focus. This, however, results in making the documentary even more realistic, as it is stripped from any kind of artistry, and thus focuses completely on its main subject, in a tactic that definitely benefits the film.
"Mrs. B. A North Korean Woman" is an impressively realistic documentary that highlights the circumstances of the immigrants in SE Asia through the life of a truly extraordinary woman.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Guest Film Review] "Mrs. B. A North Korean Woman""
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