The award-winning film “The Kid With a Bike,” now showing in Japan, was inspired by a real-life story in Japan involving an unwanted baby who grew into a teenager living a life of crime.
Directed by Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, the movie also centers around an abandoned boy. But it also carries the message that the welfare situation in Belgium is improving, and that attention from adults can make a huge difference in the lives of abandoned children, the brothers said.
The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2011.
In the real-life case, the boy grew up in child welfare facilities in Japan after being abandoned by his parents.
Sayoko Ishii, a lawyer who frequently met the boy, said the child often sat on the roof of the welfare home, looking for his father who had promised to return, until he was about 10 years old.
After he gave up waiting for his father, his behavior changed, she said.
He joined a "bosozoku" motorcycle gang and committed crimes to be accepted by the group, Ishii said. At the age of 17, he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
“Japanese children’s welfare facilities are too large in scale to focus proper attention on a child,” Ishii said. “If there are adults who catch the warning signals and sympathize with a suffering child, many crimes could be prevented.”
The boy was the model for Cyril, the protagonist in “The Kid With a Bike.”
Cyril, who will become 12 years old soon, is also abandoned as a child and is raised in welfare facilities.
But the Dardenne brothers’ script takes Cyril on a different path from the Japanese boy.
In the movie, Cyril gradually opens up to a woman who found his lost bike. He asks her to be his foster parent on weekends.
Luc Dardenne said he believes if a child and an adult are convinced they love each other, they can become a family without blood ties, and the child may be able to forget about being abandoned by the parents.
The two directors said many children are seeking adults who care about them more than anyone else. But staff members at child welfare centers cannot play that role.
To create an environment similar to family, Belgian welfare homes for children are small, holding 15 kids at most.
In Japan, 70 percent of about 600 children’s welfare facilities have a capacity of 20 or more children. In addition, the foster care system has not deeply penetrated in Japanese society.
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