Growing up without tears

Had Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda not been so experienced in documentaries, he might not have been able to remember an event that happened many years ago and present it with the distance and the depth of a sensitive observer of life. After all, Koreeda has stated that his main influences are from documentaries, although he has by now distanced himself from the genre and has distinguished himself with narrative films. His latest, «Nobody Knows,» a nightmare scenario of parental negligence, is a heartbreaking ode to childhood. The film, currently showing at local cinemas, was honored at the Cannes Festival last year and its young leading character, 13-year-old Yuga Yagira, received the best actor award. «Nobody Knows» is about four children trying to maintain a sense of normality in their lives after their mother abandons them. Lyrical and touching moments, as well as revealing images of beauty and hope run through the movie, without, however, making it melodramatic. You will not see Yagira cry, although his role in the family is the hardest, as he is responsible for his siblings. «He is not in any position to cry. Tears are useless for him. My aim wasn’t to tell a sad story. It may have turned out to be sad, but for me it is, above all, a story about a boy who manages to reach maturity. So there was a positive side,» said Koreeda to Kathimerini during the 45th Thessaloniki Film Festival, at which a tribute to his work took place. The plot of «Nobody Knows» is based on a true story that happened in Japan in the ’80s. «I wanted to explore the personality of someone who is on the brink of adolescence and is torn between remaining a child and becoming an adult. The boy loses his innocence when his sister dies. But that is more or less how we become mature: You have to lose something in order to become an adult,» said the Japanese director. The film’s title was not chosen randomly. Not one of the neighbors knows how the children in that flat actually lived. «In Japan, you come across more and more parents who do not deal with their kids. We even come across cases of children dying of dehydration.» A fan of Theodoros Angelopoulos, Atom Egoyan and Victor Erice, Koreeda said he has been very influenced by these filmmakers’ work. Yet in his last film he feels closer to Francois Truffaut’s «Four Hundred Blows» or Vitali Kanevsky’s «Don’t Move, Die and Rise Again!» «The truth is that I shaped the script after observing my leading characters. I was trying to understand them, especially the moments where they had to get by by themselves. But I noticed something: Even in extreme situations, there is a part of childhood that remains unaffected. It is the game and imagination.» Koreeda’s next project is a period drama. «I want to test myself with something different, so that I can expand my abilities as a filmmaker. So far, I have used naturalism to seek reality; now I want to try to seek reality through absolute fiction.»

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