New Asian Currents
New Asian Currents Special Invitation Films
The Art of Misunderstanding
Twenty-one documentaries of varying length will be shown in this year’s New Asian Currents program. Once submitted, they are selected through a process of previewing and discussion, but in fact I think that these films found YIDFF, or that they picked us. Assuming that each film is alive, YIDFF is just a small event or point of passage in its lifetime—which begins before, and continues long after the festival. Even after a filmmaker’s death, their films never ultimately die. They take on a life of their own, changing viewers’ lives and even driving them mad in ways that no one expects. Once born into this world, death will never be their fate. There is no reason that they exist, just as there is no reason why we live. There is no reason why we make, see, or show films—there is only film’s existence. This way of looking at their lives makes them seem zombie-like, and divine.
They arrive in Yamagata, every last one of them, made in a different manner from the rest. Some use a fictional framework or language, or perhaps a stage setting. One shows in the credits the names of actors who appear in the film. Another tells us at the beginning that it is a work of fiction. There are scenes where actors play historical figures, or where migrant workers act based on a script they wrote about their own experiences. Some films make apparent their awareness of this fictional aspect, and some conversely depict the real world of a person that would be unimaginable for someone unfamiliar with that world. Film (as long as it is a film, any type of film) is completely fictional for the members of the audience, as it does not depict the worlds in which they each live. Here is where the filmmakers’ creativity depicting their world and the audiences’ imagination that interprets them meet. Interpretation is limitless, whether it be the stance taken by the filmmaker or the reaction of the audience.
Such is the art of misunderstanding. Anytime we desire to understand something or try to make sense of it, we misconstrue. When you assume that there is one correct interpretation or single answer, then naturally you can identify something called error. However, if you accept the possibility of infinite interpretation, then “misunderstanding” turns out to be nothing more than one person’s interpretation. They who misunderstand rarely realize it, while they who are misunderstood sometimes do—but almost never at the same time. A film festival is a place where the interaction between the two has the opportunity to exist in innumerable variation, with endless numbers of “misunderstandings” in a state of vibrant friction: between films and filmmakers, films and the festival, films and the audience, one audience member and another… When we accept that all interpretation is misunderstanding, we no longer have anything to fear. Be proud to misunderstand. Losing the anxiety to understand, you gain the joy of joining in a moment of the lifetime of each film. Intense misunderstanding will expand your world and lead you places you never imagined.
Both a person’s life and the life of a film consist of curious misunderstandings in each moment. Battle your way through the limitless relationships brought about by these and you will surpass “understanding” and find you have lost your inhibition at treading into unknown worlds.
The festival has arrived, with its “misunderstandings” and their lingering instincts that cannot be described in words—that tense feeling, heart thumping, fired up rage and spirit, crackling excitement—intersecting in theaters like Forum and Az, and on the streets of Nanoka-machi.
I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who dedicated themselves to making this festival possible, to those who made films and submitted them, and to those who came to watch the films in the festival. Lastly, I would like to give a shout out to Miyazawa-san, who has been part of YIDFF since its birth but is not with us this year. Dear Miyazawa-san, all these Asian films and filmmakers are coming to Yamagata again this year.