This Year’s Festival

In recent years, the New Asian Currents program has presented numerous noteworthy independent films from China, and this year’s International Competition features a tremendous production from China, over nine hours in length. This work gives exhaustive evidence of the strength of Chinese independent filmmaking. The International Competition includes many works from Asia, including a film about the aftermath of the 1999 Taiwan earthquake, produced over several years by director Wu Yii-feng, head of the Taiwan-based Full Shot Workshop and participant in the YIDFF ’99 New Asian Currents Special Program, whose works were screened at YIDFF ’91 and ’97. Another work is by a director who is a descendent from indigenous people in the Philippines. In addition, New Asian Currents presents vibrantly diverse productions by young and up-and-coming filmmakers. Of special interest is a Japanese production exploring nuclear issues in the U.S., Iraq and beyond, which seems particularly relevant given the current state of global affairs.

The September 11th attacks on the U.S. immediately preceded the last film festival. The U.S. military began bombing Afghanistan as the festival got underway, and things went as far as war in Iraq. The vicious cycle of Israeli occupation and incursion and Palestinian suicide bombings continues. In 1968, the anti-Vietnam War movement and protests against the establishment erupted worldwide, and the U.S. saw the start of the Newsreel movement, which produced numerous films advocating system-wide reform. This year’s Yamagata Newsreel! program considers the relationship between society and documentary filmmaking, featuring works from the Newsreel period alongside pieces highlighting the peace/anti-war movements of 2003.

Another major section of the festival takes up the subject of Okinawa. Although currently part of Japan, Okinawa holds a unique position historically and geographically. Before World War II, Okinawa was a base for Japanese expansion south, quickly becoming the site of extreme misery and destruction in the Battle of Okinawa. Much of Okinawa’s land was taken over for U.S. military bases during occupation and after Okinawa’s return to Japan in 1972, giving Okinawa a very special stance towards both the U.S. and Japan. Works shot by Okinawan filmmakers will be screened alongside films from Japan, America and Europe, including narrative films and television documentaries, presenting the complexity of Okinawa on an unprecedented scale. This section of the festival should provide a full spectrum of stimuli, from fun events and screenings with live performances of Okinawan music, to more biting programs reconceptualizing Okinawa, Japan, and the world.

This festival has deep connections to the constantly changing landscape of our world. We look forward to reactions to these films on the present, past, and future, and expect that this year will again be an entertaining and thought-provoking festival.

—Yano Kazuyuki