True Crime, Real Culture: Our Review of CBC Firsthand: ‘The Missing Tourist’

Posted in Movies, TV by - March 02, 2017
True Crime, Real Culture: Our Review of CBC Firsthand: ‘The Missing Tourist’

On October 19, 2014, two days after arriving in Yellowknife, Canada from Japan, Atsumi Yoshikubo enters the visitors centre. She inquires about the aurora. Atsumi didn’t know that most tour companies close until the winter. She continues on like a tourist does, visiting a gallery in Yellowknife’s Old Town. She bought souvenirs as always. We know that she went to both places because of the surveillance footage in both places.

Three days later, during my 27th birthday Atsumi walks towards the main city but no one ever saw her again. “The Missing Tourist” is an episode of CBC Firsthand, a series of short documentary films. They aim that tell important Canadian stories, whether harrowing or light. They chose the former for this episode, retelling the mystery that was rare in Yellowknife. And it’s an event that haunts some of those citizens today.

Most Japanese tourists come in groups later in the year. The unusually lone tourist went missing. The documentary shows us a concerned and sincere citizen after another. All of them say that they don’t give up on people like Atsumi. But the RCMP searcher for her but called that off after nine days. Giving up is exactly what the authorities did, a decision that shocked both the locals and the Japanese.

Atsumi’s disappearance, as well as other unresolved mysteries, are an interest of mine. Even the revelation that she bought souvenirs for others and herself made me interested on her story. She also left her things in her room. This made the RCMP assume that that detail is a part of her plan to intentionally vanish or even die. An officer added that they said what they can say, but that doesn’t convince the Yellowknife citizens.

A local tour guide who saw her before she disappeared speculates that Atsumi is alive somewhere. Another person unconvinced her brother back in Japan. The documentary brought us back to her home town in Japan, where it talked to her peers. Her former classmates remembered a shy but brave girl who followed her father’s profession in medicine. A former patient remembered someone who smiled.

These interviews weave a lot into the similarities and differences between the people in Yellowknife and Japan. What connects people and places. One of her colleagues show the souvenirs she bought for him. This reminds me of one of the Canadian journalists earlier on who talked about Yellowknife’s strange appeal. That it’s not just about the aurora, that Atsumi was the kind of person who wants to see the world.

A mistake that some true crime documentaries and even podcasts do is stay in the crime scene. Yellowknife doesn’t make for a good one, its snow, vastness, and wildlife make evidence scatter into the ether. And there’s a caginess in both the RCMP and in portraying its citizens as welcoming. The trade off we get is to get into the Atsumi’s life and culture, a choice with its own rewards.

  • Release Date: 3/2/2017
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.