Nobody Knows


(Winter 2005 Issue)

JETAA NY recently gave away several free tickets for a premier U.S. screening of Hirokazu Koreeda’s hit film, “Nobody Knows” at the
Lincold Plaza Cinemas.  Here’s what the ticket recipients had to say about the film.

The based-on-a-true-story account of 4 children left by their mother to fend for themselves in an apartment, “Nobody Knows” is shot
in a documentary style with prompted improvisation by the cast of amateur child actors. Left alone, the children cope well at first
then slowly sink into desperation as they realize “Mom” (played by mono-monikered actress “You”) is never coming back to rescue
(Isaac Leader)

In the beginning of the film, the mother is present, albeit distracted, and often away from home.  We learn rather than the one child
she claims in public, whose father, she tells people, is “working abroad,” that she has three other illegitimate children, who she hides
from public view by not enrolling them in school or letting them leave the house.  Although that is extreme and abusive, I confess that
part of my heart was initially with the mother, who I pictured as a victim of modern society which offers precious little support to
working mothers, not to mention unmarried working mothers.  She leaves early in the morning for work (we assume), often not
returning until late in the evening.  But when she does return, we see a few tender moments of hair brushing, nail painting, omiyage-
giving, and study help, all of which leads us to believe that while she is eccentric, she really does love her children and is doing the
best she knows how.
(Nancy DeBroka)

The remarkable thing about the film is that it can be viewed simultaneously as a horror movie and as a sympathetic portrayal of
innocents caught in a tragedy, much the way “Monster” showed the humanity and heartbreak of a murderess. It succeeds on both
counts, helped along by artful camera work, endearing characters, moments of levity, and a beautiful, haunting score, posing serious
questions about social responsibility along the way.
(Isaac Leader)

It is a poignant story on multiple levels, including the superb acting by the child stars, the gorgeous cinematography, the
interweaving of the city soundtrack and most importantly, by the way Kore-eda allows the storytelling to develop in a truly non-
Hollywood fashion.  For the viewer, there’s no overproduction and manufactured silliness, just a unique chance to view the innocence
and charm of childhood in a real-world setting.
(Bryan DeBroka)

There were moments of sheer beauty: the boy running as the camera runs with him through the streets of Tokyo by night; the joy of
the little one when she is taken to wait for the mother at the train station; the children getting to have a kind of Christmas celebration.

A question that remained in my mind was what made the children stay quiet for so long? It was as if the shame that they felt, and the
need to keep their “little secret” was more important than their safety.  After they realized that their mother had truly abandoned
them, why didn’t they go to the police or child protective services? Even if they had gotten split up, surely their situation would have
been better than trying to make it on their own. It made me wonder what the CPS (child protective services) is like in Japan, and what
happens to children that are abandoned by their parents.  Where do they go?
(Maura Goggins)

While it is easy for certain of us to sit in judgment in a movie theater, or at least scratch our heads thinking, “How could no one
know?” it really makes one wonder how much responsibility each of us bears for those less fortunate. Who is the “Nobody” of the title
actually, and do they have a responsibility to know, to help?
(Isaac Leader)

Coming out of a country as ruthlessly non-interventionist even in daily life as modern Japan, where a vast majority of young urban
women report being groped on the subways and three rescued NGO hostages last year were publicly humiliated and driven into
hiding by government/media bullying for “meddling” in Iraq, this film would seem intrinsically to be a rebuke to this “hear no, see no,
speak no evil” tendency. . . ”.  Bravo to Mr. Koreeda for striking, intentionally or not, at the real problem within the heart of Japan’s
struggle for respect via “internationalization”: a massive blind spot when it comes to recognizing the humanity of the “other”, or
“outsider”. This tendency was most visible to the world in aspects of Japan’s military adventurism leading up to and during WWII, but
it would seem that a perceived continuing inability to reconcile old race-based nationalistic notions with an increasingly
multicultural and interconnected world is a primary reason why Japan has not assumed a more prominent role in civic society,
despite huge economic gains and gifts to former colonies and victims.
(Isaac Leader)

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