A program that began with the very first YIDFF. Feature-length works were sought from around the world, and from the 1,153 entries emerges a stringent selection of 15 cinematic gems, richly varied and representing the vanguard of world filmmaking.
Venues: Yamagata Central Public Hall 6F, Yamagata Citizens’ Hall (Large Hall)
- Adachi Masao (JAPAN / Dir. AKA Serial Killer)
Lav Diaz (THE PHILIPPINES / Dir. Norte, the End of History)
Jean-Pierre Limosin (FRANCE / Dir. Young Yakuza)
Amir Muhammad (MALAYSIA / Dir. Malaysian Gods)
Dorothee Wenner (GERMANY / Dir. DramaConsult)
A milestone in Japanese documentary AKA Serial Killer (1969) by Adachi Masao is a travelogue documenting locations 19-year-old Nagayama Norio could have seen before being put on death row for murder. Japanese audiences are introduced to international film festival darling Lav Diaz for the first time with Norte, the End of History, which transports Crime and Punishment to contemporary Philippines through the story of a man who kills a money-lender and daughter. (Co-presented with Tokyo International Film Festival.) Jean-Pierre Limosin films Japan again with Young Yakuza, a coming-of-age story of 20-year-old Naoki entering a mafia gang. Amir Muhammed (YIDFF 2003, New Asian Currents Special Mention) returns to Yamagata with Malaysian Gods, a review of 10 years of his country’s political history—complete with his signature dry humor. Dorothee Wenner collaborates with Nigerian entrepreneurs as they travel to Germany in search for business opportunities in the delightful DramaConsult.
- The Act of Killing
- DENMARK, INDONESIA, NORWAY, UK / 2012 / Indonesian / Color / 159 min
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
The filmmakers confront former death squad leaders of the Indonesian Suharto regime and suggest they make a film about their past atrocities. The nightmarish filmmaking process and its hallucinatory result is a cinematic fever dream, an unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass-murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit. 159 minutes of intense images overwhelm the viewer with the vulnerable and sinful nature of a human society itself.
- Bajarí: Gypsy Barcelona
- SPAIN / 2012 / Spanish / Color / 84 min
Director: Eva Vila
A talent for flamenco dancing is believed to be passed down exclusively through bloodlines. For Barcelona’s Gypsy community, it cannot be learned at school or on paper: It is nurtured within the home and at bars, and perfected on the street corner. This film features two promising dancers—Karime Amaya, whose aunt was a legendary dancer, and who attracts audiences with her outstanding footwork, and little Juanito Manzano who danced his first steps to earn his new glittering flamenco boots. The passionate atmosphere of Barcelona, the tight-knit Gypsy community and the dancers’ constant efforts to inherit the flamenco legacy fascinate the viewer.
- THAILAND, CAMBODIA, FRANCE / 2013 / Thai, Khmer / Color / 96 min
Director: Nontawat Numbenchapol
In 2010, filmmaker Nontawat met a 24-year-old workman from Sisaket, a Thai province bordering Cambodia. Inspired by the young man’s past experiences as a soldier serving in the southern area that includes Bangkok, this film uniquely sketches images of the domestic political conflicts between the pro-Thaksin “Red Shirts” group and the anti-Thaksin “Yellow Shirts” group, the on-going border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia, and people’s lives along the border.
- Char . . . The No-man’s Island
- JAPAN, INDIA, ITALY, NORWAY, DENMARK / 2012 / Bengali, Hindi / Color / 88 min
Director: Sourav Sarangi
Sand islands, called “char” in Bengali, float up from the great Ganges river, which flows along the border of India and Bangladesh. The wildly weaving river’s path changes drastically when cyclones strike; the sandbanks shrink, and are sometimes wiped out entirely. Though the islands are barren, people have lived there from long ago, making ends meet by traveling to both banks to trade. They live on a national border, an area where no one is allowed to enter, and they must pass through strict security checkpoints whenever they come in and out of the islands. In recent years, because of the effects of dams and the rainy season, the flow of the river has changed dramatically, and the sandbanks are gradually disappearing. This film closes in on the harsh reality of those people, who live under the significant influence caused by the development of modern India—dams and national borders. Director is Sourav Sarangi, whose Bilal received Awards of Excellence and Community Cinema Award at the YIDFF 2009. This film was made by a joint production with NHK.
- A Gift from the Sky—The Tragedy of Hsiaolin Village, Part 2
- TAIWAN / 2013 / Taiwanese, Chinese / Color / 153 min
Directors: Lo Shin-chieh, Wang Hsiu-ling
Typhoon Morakot caused a disastrous mudslide and destroyed peaceful Hsiaolin Village on August 8, 2009, killing many villagers. For more than two years, survivors have wondered how things turned out this way. Some people try to reunite with the dead through psychics; others put their hope in the child they are about to have; and others are still haunted by the pains of losing their families. This documentary painstakingly records villagers’ never-ending hardships and their indomitable spirit, as they try to rebuild their lives. Directors are Lo Shin-chieh (Funny Competition Between Labor and Management: You Have Me in You, screened at the YIDFF ’99) and his partner Wang Hsiu-ling. This film is a sequel to A Gift for Father’s Day—The Tragedy of Hsiaolin Village, Part 1, screened at the YIDFF 2011.
- Motherland or Death
- RUSSIA / 2011 / Spanish / Color / 99 min
Director: Vitaly Mansky
What does one imagine when they think of Cuba? It is hard to find any other country where the discrepancy between people’s imaginations and reality is as huge. For more than 50 years the state has been following the battle-cry of the revolution—“Patria o Muerte,” Motherland or Death. This film lyrically depicts people who were born before the revolution and now are coming closer to the end of their lives, when it becomes clear that for them “Motherland” equals “Death.” The director is Vitaly Mansky, whose Private Chronicles. Monologue was screened at the YIDFF 2001, and Wild, Wild Beach was screened at the YIDFF 2007.
- Once I Entered a Garden
- FRANCE, ISRAEL, SWITZERLAND / 2012 / Hebrew, Arabic / Color / 97 min
Director: Avi Mograbi
In the “Old Middle East,” communities were not divided along ethnic or religious lines, and borders did not exist, not even metaphorically. Israel-born Avi’s and his Arabic teacher and old friend, Palestinian, Ali’s joint-adventure takes them to their own and each other’s communal histories. The Middle East of yore—the one in which they could coexist effortlessly—resurfaces with commensurate ease through their journey. Director Avi Mograbi received Runner-Up Prize at the YIDFF ’99 International Competition with Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi, and his Z32 was screened at the YIDFF 2009 International Competition.
- The Other Day
- CHILE / 2012 / Spanish / Color / 122 min
Director: Ignacio Agüero
A house in Santiago, Chile. The subtle and beautiful cinematography of director Ignacio Agüero leads viewers deep into the memory of one family. Occasionally, a guest arrives, ringing the doorbell and interrupting. But the head of the household, our director, has an interest in these guests, and follows them into their daily lives. Here he poetically interweaves the streets of Santiago and the conversations of the people who live and work in this film, where the family history and the history of modern Chile are crossed. Director is Ignacio Agüero, whose One Hundred Children Waiting For a Train was screened at the YIDFF ’89 and Dreams of Ice was also screened at the YIDFF ’93.
- Parts of a Family
- THE NETHERLANDS, MEXICO / 2012 / Spanish / Color / 83 min
Director: Diego Gutiérrez
Senior couple Gonzalo and Gina lives in a magnificent villa on a 4,000 m2 estate, near Mexico City. Walls with barbed wire keep the outside world far away. It’s their son, filmmaker Diego Gutiérrez who tells their story. This film is a portrait of how a relation between two people, and how after many years can change from great love into a strangling imprisonment. It’s a bittersweet and universal love story.
- The Punk Syndrome
- FINLAND, NORWAY, SWEDEN / 2012 / Finnish / Color / 85 min
Directors: Jukka Kärkkäinen, J-P Passi
Toni, Sami, Pertti and Kari: Finland’s most kick-ass punk rock band is a group of guys with mental disabilities. Enthralled by punk music, these four play music that expresses the desire for freedom and rage against society both simply, and powerfully. They are loved by many punk fans. The camera follows them in their daily lives, focusing on band practice, rehearsal, live performances and even selling records. It gracefully depicts the four members’ unique and striking personalities and charm as well as the tumultuous emotions born between the four of them.
- GERMANY / 2012 / German, Romanian / Color / 106 min
Director: Philip Scheffner
Two illegal migrant workers from Romania were shot to death in a cornfield on the German-Polish border in 1992. Director Philip Scheffner assembles landscape and memory, witness testimonies, documents and investigations like a puzzle, creating a “cinematic revision” of the case. Through this process, the history of racism and violence toward Eastern European emigrants, especially Romani people, hidden behind the death of these two Romani men surfaces anew.
- Stories We Tell
- CANADA / 2012 / English / Color / 108 min
Director: Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley, noted for her roles in Atom Egoyan films and also a director, explores the hidden truths about her family, especially the life of her late mother and the secret of her birth. Blurring the boundary between documentary and fiction, this personal film tries to disclose the uncertain truth embedded in the unique history of the artist family and presents a family story filled with deep, complicated affection.
- Tour of Duty
- KOREA / 2013 / Korean / Color / 150 min
Directors: Kim Dong-ryung, Park Kyoung-tae
There remains only silence in a US military camp town and the, soon to be demolished, surrounding entertainment district in the northern part of Kyounggi province. In the town, three ex-prostitutes live with pains engraved in their minds and bodies. This film poignantly shows pieces of their memories and their figures wandering through the forgotten site, and reveals the most pathetic truth left behind. This film was co-directed by Kim Dong-ryung (director of American Alley, winner of Ogawa Shinsuke Prize at the YIDFF 2009) and Park Kyoung-tae.
- Voices from the Waves
- JAPAN / 2013 / Japanese / Color / 213 min
Directors: Sakai Ko, Hamaguchi Ryusuke
This film is the continuation of The Sound of the Waves, a documentary consisting of interviews with the victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake (which was screened at the YIDFF 2011 “Cinema with Us” program). Filming continued for over a year, directors recorded the stories of March 11, 2011 told by people affected by the disaster in Shinchi-machi, Soma-gun, Fukushima and Kesen’numa City, Miyagi. In conversation with their wives, husbands, children, parents, close friends and coworkers, they call back the memories of that fateful day. This film surpasses the normal image of “victims,” and captures their individual “voices.”
- A World Not Ours
- PALESTINE, UAE, UK / 2012 / Arabic, English / Color, B&W / 93 min
Director: Mahdi Fleifel
Filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel, who spent his childhood in Ain El Helweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, and now lives in Denmark, combines home movies his father had shot long ago, together with the footage he records every time he gets back to his beloved “hometown,” the camp. The film depicts not only a personal family history but also the history of Palestine and the inner changes of the camp itself during the recent decades. As a person who is neither totally a refugee nor an outsider, the director covers the reality of the people who are forced to have lived in the “temporary” refugee camp for a long time. The film title comes from a novel written by Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani, who was assassinated in 1972.