Global Visions film series presents "Nobody Knows" Oct. 8

The Global Visions Film Series, sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Anthropology Club, is a forum that promotes diversity at UND and within the community of Grand Forks at large through the venue of internationally acclaimed award winning independent films. Film is a rich medium for the exploration of cultural diversity, the effects of globalization, human rights abuses, and the broad spectrum of human experiences that constitutes the nature of culture and the human condition. Every other Tuesday the Global Visions Film Series shows a movie in the Memorial Union Lecture Bowl. This year, we are joined by the UND Law School’s International Human Rights Center, who will present two films under the umbrella of the Global Visions Film Series. All films in the series are award winning films, recognized for their artistic scope and social impact. They are open and free to UND students, faculty and Grand Forks community members. Several departments on the UND campus offer the films shown in the Global Visions Film Series as extra credit opportunities for students, who must write reviews and critiques of the issues presented in each of the outstanding films shown each semester.

All films are shown Tuesday night at 7 p.m., at the Memorial Union Lecture Bowl, except “Nobody Knows,” which is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 8, and “West Beirut” scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 8. Films and dates follow:

• "Nobody Knows," Monday, Oct. 8 (Japan)
• "Cry of the Snow Lion," Oct. 16 (Tibet)
• "Curse of the Golden Flower," Oct. 23 (Hong Kong/China)
• "Bamako," Oct. 30 (Mali, Africa)
• "West Beirut," Nov. 8 (Beirut)
• "Who Killed the Electric Car," Nov. 6 (U.S.A.)
• "L’Enfant," Nov. 20 (Belgium/France)
• "Quinceanera," Dec. 4 (U.S.A.)

The Global Visions Film Series is funded by the Multicultural Awareness Committee, a standing committee in the UND Student Government.

A film review of "Nobody Knows" (Japan) by Michael Wilmington was written Feb. 16, 2005, in the Chicago Tribune.

"Nobody Knows," by the often excellent Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, is one of those special movies that can give us a new way of seeing. With immaculate skill and heart-rending compassion, it transports us into a whole new world, shining and dangerous. Kore-eda (the director of "Maborosi" and "After Life") takes us on a journey into the special domain of childhood, a voyage joyous, shattering—and supremely convincing.

With a gentle, luminous skill, Kore-eda shows us a year in the lives of four modern-day Tokyo children, ages 4 to 12, who are abandoned by their mother in their apartment and forced to fend for themselves. Coping with the world is something they've never really learned. Three of the children — a boy, 7, and two girls, 10 and 4 — were under the radar even before the abandonment because the mother concealed their identity from the landlady in order to secure the room. Only the eldest boy, 12, has had contact with the world outside.

Their insular world breaks apart just before Christmas when their charming but irresponsible mother, Keiko (played by Japanese pop star You), leaves them without warning or explanation. They must band together to survive. The 12-year-old, Akira (played by Yuya Yagira, who won the 2004 Cannes Film Festival prize for acting for this role), gives the orders; so does his sister Kyoko, 10 (Ayu Kitaura). Shigeru, 7 (Hiei Kimura), and Yuki, 4 (the remarkable Momoko Shimizu), are the little ones who follow them.

What happens is deeply disturbing but also recognizably true. As the apartment deteriorates into squalor and the kids are forced to ever more desperate measures — doing their laundry and getting water in the park after their power and water are turned off — they form their own little community, their own rules. Some work. Some, tragically, don't.

"Nobody Knows" was shot chronologically, over one year, from fall to summer 2002, and we see the children grow markedly (most obviously Akira) as the story progresses. We also see near-real behavior. The four nonprofessional child actors and You, along with Hanae Kan as Saki, the hooky-playing rich girl Akia meets outside, worked in an improvisatory way, often adding lines and action to the meticulously planned but flexible script.

This method — which recalls Mike Leigh or John Cassavetes but is closer to a fusion of documentary and fiction than either — results in a keen sense of reality, augmented by Yamazaki Yutaka's brilliant hand-held camera-work. The film's images are kinetic, full and bright. This is the way we see the world as children — and why the movie, despite its tragic subject, has that childlike feel of a world full of sunlight, a world at play. At the end, we love these children. And we can only wish their world and their guardians had loved them as well.
-- Marcia Mikulak, Assistant Professor, Anthropology,, 777-4718