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2014 Sundance “Trading Cards” Series: #10. Nathan Zellner (Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter)

Nathan Zellner (Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter) Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2013 discoveries”…
Nathan Zellner: Computer Chess, more Claire Denis, MySpace.

Lavallee: Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is based on urban legend… ­could you detail how you guys first heard of it, how it may have festered on beyond an anecdote, and then how you set out to add descriptive detail and build a protag and story arch.
Zellner: We first heard of the story right when it happened in 2001. There was little information available at the time and it evolved into an urban legend. We were so captivated by someone embarking on an antiquated treasure hunt in modern-day that we started writing the script, filling in the gaps of who she was and how she set out on her journey, and building the story from there.

Lavallee: In the Zellner filmography, Rinko Kikuchi is perhaps the biggest int. talent you’ve had board a project. Could you detail the process of seducing the actress to take on the role. Was she familiar with Coens’ Fargo?
Zellner: We had seen Rinko in Babel and a Japanese film called Funky Forest. When we met her in person, she was film knowledgeably wizzy and we definitely spoke the same language. She was drawn to the character and her adventure in the script, but she also had the right attitude necessary to carry Kumiko, especially knowing that it would be a challenge being in character under some brutally cold conditions. It was a no-brainer.

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Nathan Zellner (Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter)

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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