Film Reviews

Review: ‘Mrs. B, a North Korean Woman’

RIDM 2016


Mrs. B, a North Korean Woman
(South Korea/France, 70 min.)
Dir. Jero Yun

Korean filmmaker and artist Jero Yun’s Mrs. B, a North Korean Woman traces the complicated, dangerous life of its eponymous protagonist. The film opens on the high drama of Mrs. B. plying her trade as a smuggler of people desperate to escape front North Korea into China. Hidden camera footage captures tense moments in a car travelling through the night. But when we meet Mrs. B. in relative repose, she is deadpan, taciturn, apparently unfazed by the jeopardy of her risky business.

Jero Yun’s doc is an unsentimental portrait, filmed over three years, that depicts a woman trying to survive in a hardscrabble world. We see Mrs B.’s toughness as she handles tricky situations. We become aware of her efficiency and fast decision-making, but also see the vulnerability of a woman who was once sold into marriage to a Chinese husband. Interestingly, the doc offers a rundown of the kind of Chinese people who pay for a good wife; for instance, men who are disabled. Mrs B.’s husband does seem slow on the uptake, even though he also is her right-hand man when they are together. Mrs. B’s endeavours have included selling crystal meth and hustling girls in karaoke bars

Despite being narrated by the main character, the doc feel splintered, fragmented, and disorienting. You’re not always sure of interconnections, time frames, and the purpose of scenes, which sometimes consist of much eating and talking. This can reflect the lives Mrs. B. depicts, and it opens a window on a world few people in the west know anything about.

Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

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