An Interview with Zeze Takahisa (Director)
Belonging in Yamagata
Q: Seeing all 24 films in New Asian Currents, what sorts of impressions did you have?
ZT: The many countries of Asia all have their unique problems, and I was impressed by the many films by young directors trying to cut through them. There were so-called “documentaries” and artistic pieces, and I enjoyed the variety. For example, there were films that started with something small such as food, clothing or song to depict the history and society of their country. There were many films pursuing vanishing things, disappearing things, suicide bombings after 9.11.
Q: What sorts of conversations did you have with your fellow juror, Mickey Chen?
ZT: Maybe it’s because I’m Japanese and Mickey Chen is Taiwanese, but he looks at documentary politically. He says documentaries should involve a movement or struggle. I look at how a piece depicts people. Our viewpoints had those kinds of differences, and our debates lasted quite a while. At the end of our back-and-forth we brought up unexpected films, not the ones we had each been nominating. I felt our juror’s meetings to be dynamic and interesting places. There are few political Japanese documentaries; many are shot with an individualistic eye, with themes of life and self-exploration. I was made to rethink whether it’s right to continue in this way.
As jurors we screened our films as well. That’s one of the unique things about this festival. Other festivals separate the judges from the judged, and I enjoyed the interaction of watching our films together.
Q: What type of place would you like YIDFF to become in the future?
ZT: International film festivals are held in big cities, but I think there’s also meaning in having them in rural areas like Yamagata. There are many documentaries that depict life and the everyday. I think having a festival in a place with an everyday is very important for film. The atmosphere of the land and the consciousness of its visitors become intertwined. Yamagata’s a good festival because it’s a place to think about what it is to make and watch films rooted in daily life. With globalization every film festival is becoming standardized and homogenous. As differences are effaced, where we belong becomes a problem. Do we belong to a nation? A people? I think there were many films at this YIDFF that dealt with this theme, and I think the small senses of belonging like “home” and “citizenship” will become important in the future. This is the same as placing emphasis on life and the everyday. I think holding a festival in Yamagata in this spirit has great meaning for how we really live.
(Compiled by Hanawa Shun)
Interviewers: Hanawa Shun, Iwai Nobuyuki / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Otsuka Hayato / Video: Keino Yutaro / 2011-10-12