This Is a True Story (2003)

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In December 2001 the world's media focused on the small town of Fargo, North Dakota, where the body of Takako Konishi was found in the woods by a hunter. The media reported that she had ... See full summary »

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Jesse Heliman ...
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In December 2001 the world's media focused on the small town of Fargo, North Dakota, where the body of Takako Konishi was found in the woods by a hunter. The media reported that she had left Japan with the misunderstanding that the Coen brother's "Fargo" really was a true story and that there was a stash of money hidden somewhere in the snow on a road by a tree. This documentary traces the background to the story and finds that the media, quick to jump on a "funny" story of foolishness, had gotten the story totally wrong. Written by bob the moo

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4 July 2003 (UK)  »

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A dignified look at the death of Takako Konishi that she was denied by the world's media
27 July 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In December 2001 the world's media focused on the small town of Fargo, North Dakota, where the body of Takako Konishi was found in the woods by a hunter. The media reported that she had left Japan with the misunderstanding that the Coen brother's `Fargo' really was a true story and that there was a stash of money hidden somewhere in the snow on a road by a tree. This documentary traces the background to the story and finds that the media, quick to jump on a `funny' story of foolishness, had gotten the story totally wrong.

Almost everyone who has seen the film Fargo will have also heard the story of the Japanese tourist who froze to death looking for the money that was buried in the snow by the kidnapper in this supposedly true film. Many of us will have heard this as part of the `.and finally' or `isn't life funny' sections of the news - I know I did. However this overlooks the fact that someone did die, someone who had lived for 20 or so years until that point - even if she did die looking for money - it makes her gullible, but not a global joke of the day.

This film is immediately interesting as it looks beyond this story to find that this was not true. Konishi talks to a police man when she arrives in North Dakota and he mistakenly believes that she is looking for the money. However the truth of the matter is that Konishi had been to America several times in the previous few years and that witnesses who had given her lifts etc state that she seemed to know where she was going. A long distance phone call to Singapore the night before she died and a statement from her landlady about an American lover who had left her and moved to Singapore points to a more tragic and interesting tale.

This film builds the case for a young woman who had found happiness with a man in this area of America. A young woman who had been heart broken by the end of that happiness and seemed to be seeking some form of return to that feeling or closure by returning to somewhere she had been content for once. The film doesn't claim to have all the answers but does lay bare what it knows as facts - something the media never tried to actually do, they preferred the `kooky' story that it appeared to be on the surface. Interviews with friends and family and resident/officials of North Dakota who met her show that this is not connected to the film in any way and has been twisted to become a nice 3 minute feature on the news.

The film presents the story with a real weightiness that suggests it is more meaningful than it turns out to be, but it is involving because it has the respect to treat Takako Konishi with dignity and try to learn what she was about. She was not a kook or a film nut gone wrong, she was a person who's pain lead her to be found dead - alone in the snow from a mix of drugs and alcohol. The film cannot know what went through her mind but it can do a better job than the media. At times it's delivery is a bit poncey but it works quite well. Ohmori plays Konishi and manages to convey a form of silent personality without forcing the film out of the documentary mould and into a drama.

This film didn't change my life or have a huge impact - mainly because it isn't about wider themes it is only about one person. Konishi was made a joke out of - her death was a source of amusement and became an urban myth to be repeated as fact on the internet and throughout the media. Her story here is moving as it reflects a real person and not the image we have been fed by the news. Her story is sad as we know where it will end but I left the film feeling thankful that someone had honoured her life by at least looking past a 3 minute news slot and looking at a life lost and tried to understand why.


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