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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Nobody Knows: Children and the Indifferent Society

Nobody Knows: Children and the Indifferent Society

Nobody Knows is a film that leaves the audience in a condition of aporia at the end. If someone asks you how the film is, your first word might be, “I don’t know.” At the same time it could also mean that the film offers us our own interpretations, and everyone will eventually derive his/her own answer from the screen. One of them might be the film’s keen analysis of the extreme indifference of Japanese society to people living next door.

Generally speaking, the film is about four siblings who live happily with their mother in Tokyo. The children are all from different fathers, and the existences of three of them haw never been recorded officially, and therefore, hidden from the landlord and neighbors. One day, the mother leaves from the apartment with a little money and a note asking her eldest son, Akira, 12 years old, to take care of his younger siblings. Thus, the life of four abandoned siblings has begun.

This film is based on the real incident called, Affair of the Four Abandoned Children of Nishi-Sugamo, which happened in 1988. The basic setting of the film follows the real affair, however, some facts have been changed and omitted. For instance, there were five kids (two boys and three girls) in the real happening, the second boy had died, and their ages were 14, 7, 3 and 2. So the real event is far more painful than the film. Taking the real affair into his own work, director Hirokazu Kore-eda shows his understanding of the happening. “The life of these children couldn’t have been only negative,” says Kore-eda on the official website. “There must have been a richness other than the material, based on those moments of understanding, joy, sadness and hope. I didn’t want to show the ‘hell’ as seen from the outside, but the ‘richness’ of their life as seen from inside.”

Hirokazu Kore-eda was born in Tokyo in 1962. After graduating from college, he joined TV Man Union, an independent television production company. Nobody Knows is his fourth film. His first movie, Maborosi, won the Golden Osella at the 1995 Venice Film Festival, and his second movie, After-Life, is going to be adapted into an American film by 20th Century Fox. He is also known as a great documentary filmmaker and has produced films such as, (However… ) in which he explores the suicide of a top government official responsible for the welfare of Minamata mercury poisoning victims, and (August Without Him), a portrait of the first Japanese man to publicly announce his contraction of AIDS. Having developed his technique in documentary filmmaking, Nobody Knows contains elements of a documentary. For instance, he doesn’t give a script to the actors. “Having a conversation like we normally do, the actors produce natural lines,” says Kore-eda .

Throughout the film, we cannot ignore the extreme indifference of the society towards people, especially children, living next door. Talking about Nobody Knows, Kore-eda says, “Curiously, none of the other inhabitants of their apartment building were aware of the existence of three of the children.” In the film Kore-eda also shows other junior high school students such as Akira (Y_ya Yagira)’s friends, who steal things from a convenient store, force Akira to do the same, and break up the friendship when Akira doesn’t do what they say. Then there is a girl who gets bullied at school and becomes afraid of school and spends a day at a park doing nothing. These children exist, yet are hidden from the surface of the Japanese society. While we see the mother of the four children hide their existence and eventually abandon them, we realize that society also ignores and abandons the children whom the society regards as “unwanted”.

This film is playing at Kendall Square Cinema only for a week, which means it will end within the next few days. However, the DVD will be released on March 11th and be available at Amazon market .