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[Interview] Jero Yun


After "Mrs. B. A North Korean Woman" Jero Yun decided to make an effort for a feature film, with "Beautiful Days - 2017" opening last year's Busan International Film Festival. On the occasion of the film screening at Cine Aasia, we speak with him in detail about the movie.

Why did you decide to go towards the feature film, after shooting documentaries? Do you feel the impact of a feature film about people trafficking will be bigger than the one of the documentary?

"Beautiful Days - 2017 is not focused in people trafficking. The main story is about a family that I couldn't talk about in a Documentary. You can consider the two films as twins. "Mrs. B. A North Korean Woman" and "Beautiful Days - 2017" complete each other. In the latter you can see in the fiction that is miss in the documentary and vice versa.

At times, I felt that story goes a bit too far, particularly through the last arc, regarding Zhenchen's father. Why did you decide to include this part to an already very dramatic story?

Zhenchen represents the current generation in China. We estimate that 60,000 children are born from Chinese fathers and North Korean mothers. Some children look for their mothers some do not. I wanted to transmit a message about how a family changes to another family.

When you watch more carefully Zhenchen's father, what he did in the past and how Zhenchen does the same in the present, you can understand my intention, through this symbolism, with a question : why Zhenchen does similar thing as his father, when we understand that he is not biological father? This situation is similar to the one in "Like  Father, like Son" by Kore-eda.

"The time spent together is more important than blood". This is the main message in "Beautiful Days - 2017". It is also my personal message about Korean peninsula situation.

Violence seems to be one of the main elements of the film, even if not always in physical form. Can you elaborate on this concept? 

I laced many symbolisms in the film and in each character, each relationship and situation. All symbolism are joined in the aforementioned question.

What is the situation with North Korean defectors in S. Korea at the moment?

Discrimination continues to exist.

Kim Jong-sun-II's cinematography is impressive. Can you give us some details about your cooperation and particularly the neon lights that seem to dominate a large part of the movie? Can you give us some details about the locations the film was shot?

"Beautiful Days - 2017" was a very low budget film, under 300,000 dollars, with 15 days of shooting schedule. I worked a lot on the mood board and story board for 5 years on my own. And when Lee Na-young accepted, production went very fast. I had only 1 month to prepare. When I met Kim Jong-sun-II, I showed him every visual research and story board that I had made during those 5 years. He really liked that and he brought his impressive skill to film to materialize those on screen.

We only shot in Korea. We did not have the budget to shoot in China. The production designer, Lee Min-ah-I did wonderful work.

How was your cooperation with Jean Marie Lengelle (editor of "Blue is the Warmest Color") on the editing of the film, particularly regarding the presentation of the many flashbacks?

He is very talented in building characters subtler, more delicate. It was not easy to edit the flashbacks. We tried our best.

How did you guide Lee Na-young and Jang Dong-yoon for their parts? In general, how was the casting process for the film like? How did you end up with Lee Yoo-joon, whom I think is excellent in the role of the villain?

I talked and exchanged many ideas about the character with all the actors during preparation. We had very short time, but our collaboration was wonderful. In general, I discussed many time with the actors and tried to listen their thinking. I love that and it is the only way to understand their position and how I can work with them in the movie.

Lee Yoo-joon's case was very special because he came in the movie almost in the last weeks. We did not have much time. So, he came in my house and we talked, worked together to make this villain character. He surprised me tie and time again.

Are you working on anything new?

I just finished my new short film, called "The Hunter". Now, I am going to make my next feature film.

Interview by Panos Kotzathanasis


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