Shortly after the conclusion of the 15th edition of the biennial Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network officially named the location in which it’s held a “Creative City of Film”. The designation, which had been sought by the Yamagata City government and the festival, was one of a new cohort recognised for fields ranging from crafts and folk art to design, gastronomy, literature, media arts, and music, bringing the total number of notable locales to 180.1 The accreditation signals a positive development for YIDFF and invites a look back on the festival’s history in context of the accomplishments of this year’s lineup.

Located in the Tohoku region in Northeast Japan, a two and a half hour bullet train ride from Tokyo, Yamagata has a long history of film culture, dating before YIDFF’s first edition in 1989. In the course of touring his famed Sanrizuka series on resistance to construction of Narita International Airport, Ogawa Shinsuke’s documentary collective Ogawa Productions stayed in Kaminoyama City in Yamagata Prefecture in 1972. Through that experience, creating connections with local people, Ogawa Pro surprisingly relocated to Magino Village in Kaminoyama, where they continued producing work embedded within the community. For a centennial celebration of the founding of the prefecture’s capital, the local media figure Tanaka Satoshi led Yamagata City to commit to the festival to mark the occasion, and invited Ogawa’s contributions leading up to the 1989 launch, bringing experience, connections, and passion to the project’s nonprofessional staff and volunteers.2

This founding positioned Yamagata as the first international documentary film festival in Asia. From the inaugural edition, the need for a robust support system for documentary production and distribution was identified by participants of a symposium including Zarul Albakri of Malaysia, Teddie Co, Nick Deocampo, and Kidlat Tahimik of the Philippines, Tsuchimoto Noriaki of Japan, “Peggy” Chiao Hsiung-ping of Taiwan, Manop Udomdej of Thailand, Kong Su-Chang of South Korea, and hosted by Stephen Teo and Ogawa. (Tian Zhuangzhuang of China and Hong Ki-Seong of South Korea were invited but could not attend due to political circumstances). Owing in part to Tahimik’s start in filmmaking in Germany, following the Oberhausen Manifesto he drafted the “Asian Documentary Filmmaker’s Manifesto” which the participants signed, stating a commitment to maintaining a network for sharing visions, problems and solutions.3

Any film festival persists as clustered points within a larger constellation of orbiting institutions, individuals and texts, and the continued life of YIDFF reveals a strong force of cohesion and solidarity-building where little existed before, and in defiance of the often seemingly gravitational pulls of censorship and neoliberalism. After Ogawa passed away in 1992, the first recipient of the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize at the festival’s third edition was Wu Wenguang, who launched many projects including the Caochangdi Workstation and the Folk Memory Project. Often indirectly, the festival helped foster translocal connections within the region, and saw the development of other festivals such as the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival (founded 1998), Yogyakarta Documentary Film Festival (2002), Yunnan Multicultural Visual Festival (2003), Beijing Independent Film Festival (2004), Kobe Documentary Film Festival (2009), DMZ International Documentary Film Festival (2009) and ARKIPEL Jakarta International Documentary & Experimental Film Festival (2013).

As documentary festivals and competition sections proliferate on the international circuit and in Asia specifically, YIDFF’s model stands in distinction to that of other important hubs for the exhibition and generation of new works relying on a festival economy of corporate and state funding streams and markets. The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) is a prototypical point of comparison, developing film markets for sales as well as project pitching, co-financing and co-production. Asian festivals such as the Busan International Film Festival have instituted this as a significant resource for regional projects, however YIDFF has resisted this impulse, instead offering different forums for project support and incubation, including a Yamagata Rough Cut! works-in-progress section (this year featuring works from Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, as well as local high school and university students), substantial monetary competition prizes, and touring programs.4 Relative to other festivals’ “talent” campuses or critics academies, YIDFF hosts a Yamagata Film Criticism Workshop with film critics Chris Fujiwara and Kitakoji Takashi mentoring two groups (working in English and Japanese respectively), who hold intensive discussions of the lineup which form the basis for participants’ writing on the films and programming.5

Having instituted a Tokyo office since its first edition as a project of Yamagata City, the festival became an independent nonprofit in the late 2000s, while continuing to receive local governmental support with the understanding it would contribute to local community-building. Sustaining the festival’s multi-city administration and wide regional reach while maintaining a unique festival model in many ways resistant to industrial trends has required a persistent negotiation of philosophical priorities and institutional orientations. Within this complex interaction of local, national and international power dynamics, changes in the global neoliberal film industry, and structures of accreditation, the general understanding amongst festival-goers is that the stamp of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network will solidify governmental support for the festival, while also validating the regional and international reach of YIDFF’s creative programming and institutional initiatives.

The preservation of this unique festival identity is worth fighting for, and the city of Yamagata does make for a special festival experience. Modest in size, the city’s affordable hotels fill up with participants during the month of October, when the foliage begins to turn and the nights get cold. All of the festival screening venues are no more than 15 minutes walking distance from each other, and include a citizen’s community hall, a cinema of the local Forum Theater chain, the Yamagata Museum of Art, and a performing arts venue where the Yamagata Symphony Orchestra are featured on opening night. A unifying nightly tradition is the gathering at Komian, a restaurant in a renovated kura storehouse. For a few hundred yen one receives a drink and snack, and mingles amidst the throng of locals and travelling filmmakers, critics and programmers in the deep hall and adjoining rooms. During the day, conversation extends the usual rushed festival lunches at restaurants moving to the unhurried rhythm of a small city, enjoying specialities of soba and sake. (Including one restaurant boasting a curry modelled on Ogawa’s own, a recipe featured in Barbara Hammer’s 2000 film on the collective, Devotion.) Many participants plan excursions to local onsen following the festival, or just a partial day trip to Yamadera Temple several stops up the railway line when breaks in programming on the penultimate day allow, prior to the evening awards ceremony. (The award winners are screened on the final day.)

As a festival held every two years, YIDFF has a wide range of material to select from, presenting new discoveries and recontextualising those that have already received acclaim elsewhere in developing the themes and narratives of its competition sections, the International Competition, New Asian Currents and Perspectives Japan. With innovative retrospectives and special invitation titles also a signature of the programming, YIDFF 2017 has just over 160 films in total (noting the consideration of 1,791 entries from 128 countries). Addressing the local area is the recurring Yamagata and Film section in addition to Cinema with Us, a series instituted following the 11 March, 2011 (or 3.11) earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe in nearby Fukushima exhibiting works produced in its aftermath. Local people, some clearly longtime attendees and documentary connoisseurs, ask many questions during Q&A discussions and panels, and the network of volunteers publishes a daily printed newsletter and co-organises a selection of events.

Special sections presented regional perspectives from outside Asia including Africa Views and Resonant Bodies: Fredi M. Murer Retrospective on the acclaimed figure of Swiss Nouveau Cinema. A longtime Yamagata favorite, the Filipino cartoonist, filmmaker and musician Roxlee returned with screenings and performances such as ABCD (1985), Spit+Optik (1989) and Manila Scream (2017), as well as his past YIDFF pre-credits animations and an exhibition in an old photo studio in town. In the section Politics and Film: Palestine and Lebanon 70s-80s, Adachi Masao was joined by other filmmakers from the region where he spent decades in militant struggle. With a well-noted lack of corporate sponsors compared to other comparably-sized festivals, much of YIDFF’s programming and discussions allow for refreshingly open engagement with political issues and debate.6 Generally this engagement of politics extends beyond a conventional humanitarian impulse ignorant of structural conditions endemic to the documentary form, with the inclusion of formally and ideologically challenging work rather than simply visualisations of suffering. A case in point is the selection of Matsumoto Toshio shorts for the opening film program, including Nishijin (1961) on Kyoto weavers, which becomes a complex view of labour following struggles against the US-Japan Security Treaty, the extraordinary bicycle industrial Ginrin (Bicycle in Dreams, 1955) with Jikken Kobo and Tsuburaya Eiji, and the stunning three projector 16mm work Tsuburekakatta migime no tame ni (For My Crushed Right Eye, 1968).

A Filmless Festival still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

ABCD still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

Following his passing earlier in 2017, Matsumoto was one of a number of key figures in the film culture dear to Yamagata memorialised this year. In addition, marking the ten year anniversary of his death in 2007, a series of screenings and discussions of the work of the essential (and under-recognised abroad) Sato Makoto were featured including his Aga ni ikiru (Living on the River Agano, 1992). Offsite, his friends and followers gathered at the riverbank under Sotsuki Bridge, and projected his documentary covering the 1993 edition of YIDFF onto a concrete girder while enjoying stew and sake. Adding to the sense of a requiem, or steeling a community for present and ongoing crises with the powerful energy of history, was the closing title, Hyogen ni chikara ariya Minamata producer, kataru (The Power of Expression: The Minamata Producer Speaks, 2016) directed by Inoue Minoru and Kataoka Nozomi on the late Takagi Ryutaro, producer of Tsuchimoto Noriaki and Higashi Yoichi’s films. Markedly subdued in style in comparison to the works it documents such as Okinawa retto (Okinawa Islands, Higashi Yoichi, 1969) and Minamata: kanja-san to sono sekai (Minamata: The Victims and Their World, Tsuchimoto Noriaki, 1971), its selection attests to the festival’s commitment to cultivating a greater understanding of local and regional documentary culture.

In the Perspectives Japan section a number of notable projects pushed this urge to look back toward a productive temporal oscillation and reflection on medium. Launched just weeks after 3.11, Maeda Shinjiro’s project BETWEEN YESTERDAY & TOMORROW Omnibus 2011/2016 (2017) represents the work of participants producing short films just after the disaster, and again shortly before YIDFF. Maeda’s instructions based around three days of production allow for creativity within strict guidelines: on day one record audio of what you will shoot tomorrow, on day two shoot video, and on day three record audio talking about what you shot, editing to exactly five minutes with this material. A replicable film workshop exercise, these often profound works take the audience around Fukushima to Yamagata, Osaka, Tokyo, Kochi and Hyogo. Similarly, in a double feature of 8mm works, Murakami Kenji’s Ushiro ni furimuke! (Look Behind!, 2017) and Onishi Kenji’s Yurei reel 1-6 soshuhen (Almost Ghost, 2017) each look at a deterioration of the medium in different ways. For Onishi, this is using expired Super-8 stock for a kind of home movie documentation of the death of his grandmother, while Murakami dramatises his dwindling Single-8 cartridges including a live in-theatre cassette tape soundtrack and his vocal performance by the projector standing at the back of the cinema. A small section rounding out the abundance of Japanese titles in special invitation and retrospective programs sometimes in uneasy relation to the defining traditions of Japanese documentary,7 Perspectives Japan also included Xing Fei’s Senkyo ni detai (I Want to Run for Office, 2016) on a Chinese immigrant’s fight for elected office in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Tenryu-ku Okuroke Osawa Bessho seiche kojo (Tenryu-ku Okuryoke Osawa: Bessho Tea Factory, 2014) by the late Hori Teiichi, who recently passed away during a retrospective of his works at Pole-Pole Higashi-Nakano, and Oura Miran’s Kaerimichi (The Road Home, 2016), a personal documentary following survival of the 3.11 disasters – a previous Yamagata Rough Cut! participant.

In the New Asian Currents section, with 21 films plus two special invitation titles, we saw some of the important work being done by the festival in recognising new voices. Considering the number of titles, it was a heavy load for the two person jury of Teddy Co and Shiozaki Toshiko. A perfect fit for Yamagata’s history of cinema and agriculture was Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar’s Kho Ki Pa Lü (Up Down & Sideways, 2017), which received an Award of Excellence. Shot in the district of Phek in Nagaland, located in India near the border with Myanmar, it opens up the tradition of Li, call and response songs sung while working in farming cooperatives (mülé). Long take, deep focus shots display the terraced rice paddies echoing with song (a sonorous directionality suggested by the title), before testimonies of residents reveal the area’s fights for independence and continued conflicts. (Up Down & Sideways also received the Directors Guild of Japan Award, represented by a jury of John Junkerman, Nakamura Yoshihiro, Negoro Yu and Takahara Hidekazu.) Receiving a Special Mention after festival acclaim elsewhere, Taiwan-based Midi Z’s Fei cui zhi cheng (City of Jade, 2016), also set in a conflict zone in Myanmar’s Kachin state, is a personal documentary watching his elder brother’s search for the titular rock in a quarry rife with separatist rebels and corrupt authorities. Following the director’s themes of restless mobility, Z’s brother Zhao De-chin embodies a cyclical turn from opium-addicted young worker to enabling boss. The film makes effective use of landscape and atmospheric dust, yet its suggestion of fated land is all the more uneasy as Aung San Suu Kyi falls back on bright promises for the country. Having presented previous iterations of her “Self Portrait” series produced as part of Wu Wenguang’s Folk Memory Project, Zhang Mengqi’s Zi hua xiang: sheng yu 47 gong li (Self Portrait: Birth in 47 KM, 2016) was again a highlight of the festival. Documenting an oral history of China’s Great Famine of 1959-61, in which artists of different disciplines work in villages where they have some connection, as a filmmaker and dancer, Zhang creates a uniquely physical encounter with a family of elderly and children subjects and their rural environments. Extending this project, the film’s two screenings used the start of the Q&A period for a dance performance by Zhang utilising a darkened theatre and a single flashlight, as well as a movement workshop with festival-goers from the audience.

Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival

City of Jade still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

Continuing in New Asian Currents, Wang Wo’s Meiyou dianying de dianyingjie (A Filmless Festival, 2015) provided an opportunity for translocal solidarity and information sharing as hoped for in YIDFF’s first edition. Major news in the Asian festival circuit at the time, the film documents the Chinese government’s forceful cancellation of the 11th annual Beijing Independent Film Festival in August, 2014. With authorities cutting power and water to the venue, and plainclothes police injuring participants, the film is a patchwork of cell phone video and photos, with social media screenshots also battling online censorship. The form of the work calls into question not only physical intervention by the state, but censorship through digital technology, at the same time as they offer an opportunity for creative resilience across borders.8 A thrilling work of partisan filmmaking played out in improvised art spaces and streets, it gets at essential questions of film culture inflected in 2014 with Busan City officials’ intervention in the Busan International Film Festival in October of the same year, and by no means irrelevant to the fight for open media in Japan following the passage of a controversial state secrecy law, or the United States’ attempted corporate takeover of net neutrality.9 Chan Tze-woon’s Luanshi beiwang (Yellowing, 2016) took home the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize, 20 chapters or “memos” to the director’s future self on the experience of the 79-day Hong Kong 2014 Umbrella Revolution. Taking its English title from the yellow ribbons worn by members of the movement for universal suffrage, in opposition to the pro-police blue side, it documents the director’s experience in the encampments, and witnesses the radicalisation of many students. It offers wide character arcs such as one young religious man who goes from expressing concerns over showing his face at protests for fear of spoiling chances with a church-going marriage prospect, to carrying a rarely used bicycle helmet to face a line of armoured police and tear gas. Hinting at some of the divisions within the movement (situated in the Mongkok camp, looking on to figureheads such as Joshua Wong, Alice Wong or Agnes Chow), it’s a good entry point for mass demonstrations and civil disobedience such as Occupy Wall Street or South Korean protests resulting in the ouster of President Park Geun-hye, with common and distinct discourses and symbolism emerging, most notably the umbrella shielding from tear gas as well as rain. Returning to the site of protests after being cleared by police, and cutting from the now empty spaces to prior footage of crowds on a camera pan, it becomes an eerie document of erasure. Home movie footage of the filmmaker’s daily life growing up begins to deepen this, but could have been utilised more fully. Two further notable Korean titles include Song Yun-hyeok’s Sa-ram-i San-da (The Slice Room, 2015), which received an Award of Excellence and focused on life in low income jjok bang projects threatened by redevelopment from the perspective of a resident. In addition, Jung Yoon-suk’s Bamseom Haejeokdan Seoul bulbada (Bamseom Pirates, Seoul Inferno, 2017) also received a Special Mention Award, documenting the performances and political struggles of the titular grindcore band.

Another Year still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

A Filmless Festival still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival

Yellowing still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

The International Competition was smaller by comparison with 15 titles, though in keeping with the seeming trend of epic-length experimental documentaries, about a quarter run over three hours, creating quite a task for the jury consisting of Ignacio Agüero, Dina Iordanova, Ranjan Palit and Shichiri Kei (Jocelyne Saab unfortunately could not attend, but she also had her films scheduled in a special program).10 Hara Kazuo’s Nippon-koku vs. Sennan ishiwata mura (Sennan Asbestos Disaster, 2017) was one of the most highly anticipated films of the program, his first in over ten years, and in production for nearly as long. It is focused on members of the Citizen Group for Sennan Asbestos Damage in the Sennan district of Osaka, and their long legal battle that began with the filing of a lawsuit against the government in 2006 and went up to the Supreme Court. In his “action documentary” brand of personal filmmaking, Hara long appeared an outsider of Japan’s social documentary traditions, however here brings up connections to Tsuchimoto Noriaki’s work in Minamata and other excavations of toxic exposure cases. However his longstanding impulses to break boundaries power the story, such as when some of the group members knock on past co-workers’ relatives’ doors to determine if exposure contributed to their death, even if they’d prefer to let their stories die with them. It’s this desire to drill beyond social propriety to bring out into the open oppression that creates a throughline to his work – most famously Yukiyukite shingun (The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, 1987). Having collapsed the personal and political with previous titles, in depicting the slow violence of the disaster in Sennan, Hara’s camera now tracks a poison seeping from the environment into human bodies. (The film ended up being awarded the Citizens’ Prize by the popular vote of attendees.)11 John Gianvito’s Wake (Subic) (2015) has a direct link in that it investigates the effects of environmental pollution including asbestos on communities in the Philippines caused by former U.S. military bases, here focusing on Subic Naval Base. This completes Gianvito’s massive diptych entitled For Example, The Philippines, following Vapor Trail (Clark) (2010), presented at YIDFF 2011, and focused on Clark Air Base. Gianvito collides his exploration of the ravaged environment and interviews with families suffering from physical impacts with archival documents of U.S. colonialism and creative re-use and contextualisation of their compromised official narration, exhaustively recounting seldom told histories and modelling the complexities of its rendering in cinematic forms.

ABCD still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

Sennan Asbestos Disaster still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

Anna Zamecka’s Komunia (Communion, 2016), which was awarded the jury’s Grand Prize, the Robert and Frances Flaherty Prize, takes a very different approach to the medium in its intimate portrayal of Ola, a girl taking care of her younger autistic brother Nikodem and alcoholic father in Poland, while her mother begins a separate family. With Małgorzata Szyłak’s skilled camera and a scripted documentary method working with editor Agnieszka Glinska (overlaying audio from one scene as background for another), it often resembles a narrative film. One striking moment that reveals the filmmakers’ thinking through these complications is the limited use of home movie footage in which Ola is struggling to prepare her clothes and hair for Nikodem’s communion, and the film suddenly cuts to the mother, Magda, in 1988 preparing for her own communion.12 This links to the film’s opening sequence, in which Nikodem struggles to put on his belt, and again a moment at the end that notes a transformation. (Other notable use of stock footage included João Moreira Salles’s No Intenso Agora (In the Intense Now, 2017), which was awarded a Special Prize.)

With a similar domestic perspective, though one in clear dialogue with the structuralist traditions in China’s contemporary documentary culture, Zhu Shengze’s You yi nian (Another Year, 2016) brings questions of perspective to the fore. Consisting of 13 meals over one year depicted in as many shots over the course of three hours, it might sound a cold examination of ritual meal preparation and consumption, however as experienced is a compelling family drama switching between the city of Wuhan and their rural hometown where the grandmother can heal from a stroke. Tensions of access and class might seem papered over by the film’s exquisite compositions, yet it’s the casual social exchange of sharing a meal that balances the film’s formalism and makes it worthwhile. Sha Qing’s Du zi cun zai (Lone Existence, 2016) received an Award of Excellence, and depicted a similarly immobile perspective from the filmmaker’s own apartment, working through his own subjectivity and place in society. Showing much in common with juror Shichiri Kei’s excellent Nemurihime (Once Upon a Dream, 2007/2016), and featuring excerpts of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (1966), it also communicates a sense of displacement familiar to Alfoz Tanjour’s Dhakira billawn al-Khaki (A Memory in Khaki, 2016) which received the the Mayor’s Prize. With a voiceover by the filmmaker, who found himself in a refugee camp in Vienna, Austria with his family, it focuses on the people of Syria in exile – many also artists or intellectuals – and circles around the titular militaristic shade as emblem of aesthetic and ideological conditioning by the Ba’ath party. With Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia (Nostalgia, 1983) also making an appearance on a television set, the film smoothly transitions between sites of exile in Finland, France or Greece and aerial photography of a ravaged Syrian landscape (with limited excerpts of the widely circulated amateur footage of the bloody violence). Often reflexive to their class position in the conflict, the subjects look back on the decades prior to the civil war and crackdown on Arab Spring protests, and their current predicament, best described by one of Tanjour’s relatives as one of a baby strangled by an umbilical cord, who upon being freed can only enjoy breathing for a moment before a different asphyxiation sets in.

Yellowing still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

Another Year still (Courtesy of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017)

Rounding out the award recipients, Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro (2016) also received an Award of Excellence, an essay film of literary reconstruction based on a work in progress of James Baldwin under the title of “Remember this House” on the lives and murders of his friends Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, transforming his voice to eerily riff off the author’s own instantly recognisable vocal instrument, Peck brings Baldwin’s text forcefully speak to today’s most pressing issues of racism and oppression with incredible imagination and empathy. Combined with the author’s public addresses and debates, Peck enlivens his arguments with contemporaneous stock footage of civil rights protests, white mobs jeering schoolchildren, police brutality and popular film clips, working in contemporary analogues, but also allowing Baldwin’s words to play along the streets of present day Harlem, camera pointed toward the sky or shadow dappled pavement, temporal markers momentarily peripheral to a voice cutting across history. Previous YIDFF attendee Frederick Wiseman’s Ex Libris: New York Public Library (2017) offered another important view from the several American works. From his close access to administrative meetings of the NYPL to the library’s lectures and panels with figures such as Yusef Komunyakaa and Patti Smith (often live-streamed online, yet transformed here within Wiseman’s subtle art of accumulation) to extended sequences and pillow shots of the city’s vital yet often visually flat public spaces, the film is never less than compelling. Opening with the alarming presence of Richard Dawkins and closing with Edmund de Waal introducing a musical composition in a transition that is an ending, Wiseman’s film couples the tensions of slow-moving institutions with passionate revolutions of learning and creativity truly fit for YIDFF itself. 

Special thanks to Hama Haruka and Hata Ayumi from YIDFF, Fujioka Asako of the Documentary Dream Center, as well as Chris Fujiwara and fellow Yamagata Film Criticism Workshop participants Quyen Nguyen, Chanon Kenji Praepipatmongkol and Becca Voelcker.

Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival
5-12 October, 2017
Festival website: http://www.yidff.jp

Endnotes

  1. “64 cities join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network,” UNESCO, 31 October, 2017. The other “Creative Cities of Film” include Bitola (Macedonia), Bradford (UK), Bristol (UK), Busan (South Korea), Galway (Ireland), Łódź (Poland), Qingdao (China), Rome (Italy), Santos (Brazil), Sofia (Bulgaria), Sydney (Australia), and Terrassa (Spain).
  2. Abé Markus Nornes, “Yamagata – Asia – Europe: The International Film Festival Short-Circuit”, The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Cinema, ed. Daisuke Miyao, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014, pp. 245-262.
  3. The manifesto closes with “We declare here, the SPIRIT of the independent Asian documentary filmmakers is alive! and will one day, soar with the wind!” Kidlat Tahimik, Stephen Teo, et al., “The Asian Filmmakers at Yamagata YIDFF Manifesto (Japan, 1989)”, in Scott MacKenzie (ed.), Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures: A Critical Anthology, University of California Press, Oakland, 2014, p. 469.
  4. Ma Ran, “Mapping Asian Documentary Film Festivals since 1989: Small Histories and Splendid Connections,” Senses of Cinema 76, September 2015. Ma Ran, “Asian documentary connections, scale-making, and the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF)”, Transnational Cinema, September 2017.
  5. I participated in the group mentored by Fujiwara where sessions were visited by Ricardo Matos Cabo, Kinoshita Chika, Abé Markus Nornes and John Gianvito. Some of the texts produced real-time during the festival were posted to the bilingual blog Docu-Yama Live!, while others will be part of a publication sponsored by the Japan Foundation Asia Center with Japanese and English translations.
  6. So pervasive that during the opening night ceremony prior to the screening, the conductor of the (quite impressive) orchestra Iimori Norichika introduced each composition with pertinent commentary: Béla Bartók fleeing Hungary for New York City during World War II, or the similarity of Finland’s climate to Yamagata’s and Jean Sibelius’s desire for his country’s independence from Russia.
  7. Aaron Gerow, Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2017, Tangemania, 12 November, 2017.
  8. As part of this effort to re-site the cancelled festival, the organisers called for followers to post selfies with closed eyes in solidarity as part of the (Eyes) Closing Ceremony. Seemingly all of these images – including my own – have been collected and included in the film in its rapturous closing sequence.
  9. Darae Kim, Dina Iordanova, Chris Berry, “The Busan International Film Festival in Crisis or, What Should a Film Festival Be?”, Film Quarterly 69 (1) Fall 2015, pp. 80-89. Justin McCurry, “Abe defends Japan’s secrets law that could jail whistleblowers for 10 years”, The Guardian, 10 December, 2014. Tim Wu, “Why the Courts Will Have to Save Net Neutrality”, The New York Times, 22 November, 2017.
  10. Dina Iordanova, “Forget the red carpet: what it’s like to serve on a film festival jury”, The Conversation, 26 October, 2017.
  11. Joel Neville Anderson, “Sennan Asbestos Disaster: Kazuo Hara Discusses His First Film in 10 Years”, MUBI Notebook, 21 November, 2017.
  12. Pamela Cohn, “True/False: Anna Zamecka on Her Transcendent Documentary Debut, Communion”, Filmmaker Magazine, 2 March 2017.

About The Author

Joel Neville Anderson is a PhD Candidate in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester and curates JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film at Japan Society in New York. www.joelnevilleanderson.com