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Oct.3 no.1

That Which the Filmmakers of the 21st Century Have Inherited
Masuya Shuichi
The Film Festival Begins!
Kato Hatsuyo
It All Comes Back to Ogawa Shinsuke
Ogawa Tomohiro

That Which the Filmmakers
of the 21st Century Have Inherited
Program selection, Japanese Panorama, New Asian Currents, YIDFF Network Special Screenings
Masuya Shuichi

International Competition

This year video works were included in the International Competition for the first time. Among all of the changes and developments over YIDFF’s twelve years, this marks a large change. It also contributed to the large number of entries—over 700—submitted this year. Documentaries have long been made by a shoestring staff, but when documentaries were all on film, this still meant a certain number of people. When documentaries are on video, however, the majority of works are made by the filmmaker alone. This makes for an extremely personal approach, and many works begin with the intimate and expand outwards from there. This makes me wonder if we aren’t losing the scale of the documentaries of yore. Will the documentary filmmaking of the foreseeable future take this tack? My hunch is yes.

New Asian Currents

Where’s the Gap? New Asian Currents and the International Competition

With the International Competition now accepting video works, the writing on the wall says that it’s time to reevaluate the programming guidelines behind New Asian Currents and the International Competition. New Asian Currents began at YIDFF ’89 with the question “Why aren’t there any Asian documentaries?” We’ve seen the fruit of the late Ogawa Shinsuke’s desire to encourage Asian filmmakers, and it is good. So good, in fact, that it’s tempting to say there’s no longer even any difference between the two sections. This year’s entries were characterized less by social consciousness and devotion to a theme than by a close, personal gaze through which society can be seen. These works may be mature, but they also retain a sense of youth and vitality which gives them a charm not seen in the International Competition.

Japanese Panorama

Looking at Ten Years from Now

The Japanese Panorama began as a special event in at the second YIDFF in 1991, the Japan Film Panorama (organizer: the YIDFF Network, coordinator: Saito Hisao). A constantly evolving fixture at every festival since, the Japanese Panorama has been a welcome window into the current state of Japanese documentaries. Glancing at the catalogue from 1991’s Japan Film Panorama, the words “To the documentarists of the 21st century” stands out on the page.
Several years ago, I had the occasion to ask coordinator Saito Hisao about the selection process at that time. His answer, “We wanted to choose filmmakers who would still be making films in ten years,” rings in my ears. Nearly all of the filmmakers represented are still involved in filmmaking and the image arts today, and their influence is clearly visible in the works of young filmmakers today. Why? Without a doubt, it’s because the great import of the films in that first Japan Film Panorama lineup has lasted into the next generation.
This year, I had the chance to select the films for the Japanese Panorama. With this sense of continuity in my mind, I tried to select works that shone with the strength of the filmmaker. I also tried to program works in which the filmmaker wanted to show something to others, to cross the border of the self and direct something outwards. I hope to be seeing their new works in ten years.

YIDFF Network Special Screenings

Things We Must Not Forget Precisely Because We Live in Foreboding Times

For some reason, I haven’t heard any rumors lately about the Charleston making a comeback, but even before the terrorist attacks in the United States last month both Japan and the United States had seen the election of decidedly hawkish leaders. Could it be a post-economic Bubble desire for forceful direction? At any rate, can’t we say that this turn of events has meant an even stronger tendency to question our recognition and understanding of the past? Memories of the Asian War (The Forgotten People), the first of two Network compilations this year, came out of this perspective.
Filming Yamagata, the second compilation, is exactly that: a series of works made in or about Yamagata.
Until this year, the YIDFF Network Special Screenings took plae outside of the main festival. This year marks their debut as part of the official YIDFF lineup.


The Film Festival Begins!
Why Do You Watch Movies?
Kato Hatsuyo

I turned on the television, only to hear the following words come out of a young pop star’s mouth: “This outfit looks like something a ladies pro wrestler would wear.” Then came footage of the outfit in question: the pop star singing in a red frilled dress. We’ve all seen too many of these images ever since Matsuda Seiko first set off Japan’s “idol singer” fad in the 1980s, but there’s no meaning behind it. I could easily have seen the image somewhere before, but would have no memory of it at all. But with that one comment, “I look like a ladies pro wrestler,” the image took on a new meaning and has remained in my memory. For the girl singer, a member of one of Japan’s top pop groups, referring to ladies pro wrestling was a way to belittle herself, a new interpretation of the sport.

Watching images over and over again and this kind of annotation creates new meaning. If you turn on the television several times a day, you’re bound to see old, familiar images aden with new meaning. Buildings that have collapsed, the face of a boy who has just won a scholarship, sobbing people... these images that linger in memory as fragments that have new stories attached to them when next we meet them, stories that could be anything from “wrongdoers must be punished” to “violence solves nothing.”

Why do we watch movies? I think that the answer is different for everyone, but one reason why I watch them is that the images in movies are not repeated and interpreted. The images can only be seen when you have taken yourself to the theater. They are not cut apart, strung together and annotated, nor are they given new meanings later. When we watch movies, we are able to meet images that we can meet only then and only there.

This year’s film festival has started, and already we’re seeing a thousand flowers bloom. The theaters and their environs overflow with energy, and there are a multitude of Q&A sessions and special discussions planned. Please go to as many screenings as you can, nd experience as many of those encounters that can only happen in one time and one place as you can. Why do you watch films? It’s a silly question, yes, and nothing comes of asking anything so pointless. And as we watch more and more films, it should just disappear altogether.


It All Comes Back to Ogawa Shinsuke
Ogawa Tomohiro

It was two years ago that I was accepted into Tohoku University of Art and Design and started living by myself in Yamagata. That year just happened to coincide with YIDFF ’99, and somehow I found myself volunteering for the festival. I remember not having a clue what I was doing, but just letting myself be swept along in whatever was going on. I’ve been involved with the film festival ever since. This year, I had the fortune to participate in the festival itself as a citizens member of the International Competition selection committee, and with this my relationship with the festival became something like that of a rambunctious kid and a friendly neighbor lady.

Even that kid thinks about things sometimes. He calls the festival “an ongoing event,” organizes screenings at his university, is excited about the festival even in the year that it isn’t being held and has to wonder how he has stayed on with the festival. Then he looks around, and sees the warmth of the festival staff, the attraction of documentary films and the festival lineup. Each of these is an answer in itself, and each is essential, but they aren’t the entire reason. What else could there be? An important personage, the man behind the history of the festival, the spiritual pillar of the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival: the existence of Ogawa Shinsuke! Yes, it all comes back to Ogawa Shinsuke. The slightest mention of the name “Ogawa” and some burning passion rises up from deep inside him, and he inevitably cries whenever he watches one of Ogawa’s films. But why? He has been searching for the answer to this question for a while now, but has yet to come across an answer that satisfies him.

2001 marks the ninth anniversary of Ogawa Shinsuke’s death, and this year’s lineup includes two new films related to him. The first is Manzan Benigaki by Ogawa favorite, Chinese director Peng Xiaolian. Then there’s Devotion, in which 1995 International Competition jury member and 1997 International Competiton director (Tender Fictions) Barbara Hammer follows the Ogawa Productions organization. Peng met Ogawa in his final years, and the two were to make a film together; Hammer never met Ogawa. Peng is from China and Hammer from the United States. The two have completely different relations to Ogawa, but in a stroke of luck, both chose this year to present new works about Ogawa. Is it going too far to call this fate? I think it can’t just be coincidence that I share Ogawa’s last name, came to Yamagata out of the blue and lost my heart to the YIDFF siren song. It’s easy to label things as fate. But I believe that Yamagata has the power to change the coincidental into the essential. There are threads that tie us together, threads entwined many times. And when you pull those threads apart and trace them to their source, it’s all tied to Ogawa. Hello, Ogawa-san. Yamagata is still an interesting place. I hope we stay in touch.


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