Hong Hyung-sook • Junha’s Planet
Sabine Lancelin • Our Madness
Ossama Mohammed • Step by Step | Sacrifices
Deborah Stratman • Vever (for Barbara) | O’er the Land
Suwa Nobuhiro • a letter from hiroshima
Always Moving “Out of Place”
The International Competition once again presents fifteen films this year, representing a wide range of regions, themes, and styles. Frederick Wiseman returns with his latest, as does a similarly familiar face at Yamagata, another veteran American filmmaker, Travis Wilkerson, who re-visits the subject of his family. Additionally, the newest work by India’s Anand Patwardhan—twenty-two years since a film of his was nominated to the festival—shows his criticism to be as scathing as ever. Other familiar faces are two Chinese directors: Wang Bing with his newest epic, which runs over eight hours, and New Asian Currents regular Zhang Mengqi, with the newest installment of her series. From Japan, the sui generis moving images of Makino Takashi are set at conspicuous liberty amongst all these long-time documentary filmmakers.
There are also many directors who will show their films at Yamagata for the first time. With the world in 2019 at an advanced stage of globalization, there has been much suffering and tragedy in connection with the immigration and re-settlement of peoples, all across the globe. Using their own, distinct cinematic techniques to confront these contemporary issues are directors like India’s Ekta Mittal, who portrays the pain of separation from loved ones; Claudia Marschal, who presents a picture of Bosnian sisters as they head for Europe; Hassan Fazili, who documented his own family’s journey as refugees; and Noh Young-sun, who recalls the grief of war and separation through the figure of her grandmother. Now is surely the moment for the films we will be showing by Anna Eborn, Marlén Viñayo, and Eliza Capai, which deeply mark us with their stories of women and youth attempting to break away and free themselves from the poverty, oppression, and violence they face. There are also works such as the one by Teresa Arredondo and Carlos Vásquez Méndez that recalls the nearly forgotten crimes of the authorities through voices and eyes that are “out of place,” reminding us that interrupting the lapse of memory is one simple way of breaking free, and by Claire Pijman, that educates us in the universal value of film as a modern media by looking through the “out of place” gaze of a cameraman of incomparable talent.
Twenty-eight years ago, at the second YIDFF in 1991, critic Jean Douchet, who served as head juror, suggested the French term for “out of place” (déplacé / déplacément), in speaking about the importance of the filmmaker’s perspective, of seeing how “anti-conformist, impertinent, and improper” he or she was in getting “out of place” through the camera. How far did the filmmaker travel from the place they originally were, through the process of making their film? How did the filmmaker free themselves from established perceptions or unconscious restraints, grapple with intolerance or assumptions, and issue a provocation to the present-day world? This year’s fifteen films all overflow with precisely this kind of subversion. I hope that those who see them will encounter new understandings and sensibilities, and through that encounter, experience the sense of transgressing boundaries—of being “out of place,”—and enjoy a colorful cinematic journey.
The International Competition, which has been a part of this film festival since its first year, returns for the sixteenth time. There were 200 films entered at the first competition—a figure that reached over 1,400 this time. The total number of films submitted has grown to three times the average, perhaps partly because of this year’s lifting of the ban against online submission of audio-visual materials. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the preliminary selection committee, who doggedly tackled the brutal first stage of selection despite the overwhelming succession of films that poured in from one day to the next; and to the selection advisors, who kindly lent me their strength. I would also like to sincerely thank our international jurors, hailing from five different countries, who have accepted the arduous task of watching all these films—including an over eight-hour epic—from morning to night for the five straight days of the film festival, and who, moreover, will undertake the difficult task of selecting the winners. I hope that, together with the discerning audiences at Yamagata, you savor transcending all possible borders, and leisurely accompany these artists on their fifteen journeys.
Finally, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who sent in entries to this program, as well as to everyone who worked towards making this festival possible, from the preparatory stages on. Thank you, everyone.