The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival began in 1989 as one of the events commemorating 100 years of municipal government in Yamagata City. Since then the festival has been held biennially, and this year marks the eighth YIDFF.

One reason for the establishment of this festival was the large number of film buffs in the area, with eleven (now eighteen) movie theaters serving a population of 250,000. Another was the advice and endeavors of the late documentary filmmaker Ogawa Shinsuke, a resident of neighboring Kaminoyama City. The festival was also spurred by the fact that at the time documentary film was being re-evaluated, particularly in Europe and the U.S. After some trial and error, the YIDFF was launched as “Asia’s first international documentary film festival.”

The establishment of the festival was also aided by the enthusiastic support of local residents. Against an initial mood of nervous anticipation, people from a variety of sectors became active and helped build enthusiasm over the days leading up to the festival, determined to make this first foray succeed. Since then, the support organization has continued to be active on a daily basis as the YIDFF Network, holding screenings and publishing the Network News Bulletin.

We now have a festival which brings together and screens the latest leading documentaries from around the world, and to which a great many filmmakers, enthusiastic fans, critics and members of the film industry flock from around Japan. In addition to screening films, YIDFF features a variety of exchange programs in which directors take part in question and answer sessions and symposia. Conversations with audience members which begin during question and answer sessions continue even after both parties have left the venue, and it is common for discussions to go on until late at night, on the street or in izakaya after the day’s screenings have finished. Talking face-to-face is not only exciting and uplifting, but forges new relationships and provides encouragement for future activities. This is what we want YIDFF to be—a place to communicate face-to-face, exchange information and meet new people.

—Miyazawa Hiraku