Sundance London – Kumiko The Treasure Hunter Review ★★★


In December 2001, the body of Takako Konishi was found in Fargo, North Dakota. After that an urban legend was born – people believed she was looking for the money we saw buried in the film Fargo. Though it was not exactly true, filmmakers and brothers David and Nathan Zellner decided to go with the legend and create Kumiko The Treasure Hunter.

Kumiko finds a wet VHS tape with a copy of the film Fargo during one of her treasure hunts. Stuck in a job she does not like, surrounded by people she can’t relate to, and constantly nagged by her mother over the phone (why isn’t she dating? why isn’t she having a baby?), the only comfort she finds in her life is her pet rabbit and her treasure research as to where the money is buried exactly. After yet another tense day at work, Kumiko grabs the company’s credit card and flies to Minnesota, where she fights her way, which includes several cultural clashes, to get to her destination.

If Werner Herzog decided to go quirky, the result would probably be very similar to Kumiko the Treasure Hunter. This is a slow, very paced film about Kumiko’s interior quest to make reality bend to her desires. Actress Rinku Kikuchi gives an extraordinary performance, and the cinematography by Sean Porter, of an indescribable beauty on the white snowy America, completes what feels more like a fanatic homage to the Coen’s masterpiece than a separate film. We may not sympathise immediately with Kumiko, as she looks aloof and uninterested with the world that surrounds her, but we certainly start to relate more when we see what kind of pressure she is dealing with, as society wants to force her into normality and she only wants to be a Spanish Conquistador.

There are moments of humor, all very quaint, like the bribery at the library and the Chinese restaurant a nice policeman brings Kumiko into in search of a translator. But as a whole, just like Kumiko’s life, the film drags until she gets on the road. The ending, just like the beginning, is ambiguous – there are no clues on this film as to what happened to the real Kumiko, the same way we are not told that it is based on a true story. Is it a warning to the dangers of evading too far into fiction, or is actually an ode to the Don Quixote’s of this world? To each our own treasure hunt.

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter does not have an UK release date yet. 

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.