Urban legend about a mystery death in Minnesota inspires film released this week


The urban legend that sprang up following the death of a Japanese woman in rural Minnesota is the inspiration for a film released this week.

After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival to positive reviews, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, follows the story of a 29-year-old Japanese office worker who travels to Minnesota to seek out the money hidden by Steve Buscemi's character in "Fargo," the movie written and produced by Minnesota's Coen Brothers. In the new movie, the main character believes the film to be a true story.

Grantland reports that the film takes its story from the case of Takako Konishi, an office worker from Tokyo who was found dead in a field near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, in 2001, after arriving in Bismarck, North Dakota, a few days earlier.

As the Guardian reported in 2003, the real reason behind Konishi's death is almost certainly that she took her own life after being unable to get over her American businessman ex-boyfriend, with whom she had traveled to Minnesota on three occasions.

But that didn't stop rumors to swirl and the media to speculate that Konishi was looking for the missing ransom money hidden by Buscemi's character in the Coen Brothers' Oscar-winning film of 1996.

The new film stars Rinko Kukuchi, best known for her role in the 2013 film "Pacific Rim," as Kumiko, and it is directed by David Zellner.

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As you might expect, Minnesota plays a big role in the picture, as Kumiki arrives in Minneapolis-Saint Paul International (a slight deviation from the urban legend) before making her way through the state towards Fargo.

And footage shot in Minnesota's countryside is coming in for particular praise from reviewers.

NPR says the scenes in Minnesota "put the film's widescreen format to picturesque use," while Minnesota's locals are described as "good-natured" albeit "clueless" about helping Kumiko – who doesn't speak any English.

Indiewire meanwhile describes it as visually "strikingly beautiful, especially in the Minnesota-set section."

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter is on limited release, but you can catch it at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema in Uptown, Minneapolis, from next Friday, March 27, and at Zinema 2 in Duluth from April 3.

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