International Competition: Characteristics and Trends
A record 950 submissions were received for this year’s International Competition. After a six-month screening process, a final selection of fifteen works including nine films and six video works was reached.
Expressing significant developments succinctly is not an easy task considering the broad scope of change found in the sheer volume of entries, but I have attempted to introduce some major themes.
Borderless works where production, shooting and themes cannot be contained within the confines of a singular unit of nationality have emerged progressively over the last ten years. Examples of this trend in this year’s festival include Darwin’s Nightmare, whose Austrian director offers an example of globalization in his depiction of Tanzania where the release of the Nile Perch into Lake Victoria has spawned an even harsher reality; and The 3 Rooms of Melancholia from a Finnish director who trained her lens on children living in the middle of the Chechen War.
Similar changes can be seen with regard to the nationality of certain films. Joint productions between two or even three countries including the country of origin are no longer a rare occurrence, thus rendering it difficult to categorize and perceive documentaries on the basis of their nationality or region.
Peace from a Personal Viewpoint
Numerous submissions focused on the Israel-Palestine issue, exploring roads toward peace via the unique viewpoints and methods of their creators. Route 181, which sets out on a journey along the borderline dividing Palestine created by United Nations Resolution 181, is the product of a collaborative effort between Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers that consequently shares their respective stances.
Dissecting Society with One’s Own Eyes
There were also many works where the filmmaker journeyed to a location to shoot a topic covered by newspapers and television, and then proceeded to dissect events and society at large from the filmmakers’ own perspective.
Final Solution looks at tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India, while In the Shadow of the Palms tells a story of Iraq is coming to grips with the ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ given to them by the U.S. military, beginning in the days prior to the launch of the offensive and extending beyond.
From Individual to Society
The advent of video has led to the rise of self-made films shot from a personal viewpoint that deal with subjects immediate to the filmmaker. However in recent years, an increasing number of works delving into the origins of the filmmakers themselves, their families, friends, or certain places, are going beyond the individual to observe larger social realities.
About A Farm depicts the state of modern agriculture in a Finland buffeted by the changing times, through an observation of the everyday lives of one family.
Yamagata once again
As in previous years, we received new films from directors who had submitted their work to past festivals or were members of the festival jury, which reinforces the importance of this festival’s continuity and represents an ongoing opportunity to view individual filmographies in progress. In addition, filmmakers who have been inspired by interaction and discussion with festival participants and audiences will be invited to Yamagata once again, to receive further inspiration. . . . One gains a real sense that a cycle stimulating film production already exists here in Yamagata.
Such films include The People of Angkor by Cambodian director Rithy Panh, International Competition finalist for the third consecutive festival; Justice by Maria Ramos, New Asian Currents finalist in 1995 for I Think What I Want To Say Is . . .; and Cinema Invisible-The Book by Kees Hin, whose A Language with a Stranger featured in YIDFF ’99’s World Special Program.
Documentary filmmaking continues to transform in concert with worldwide movements, as various themes intersect with the sensibilities of the filmmakers. One might say that these fifteen works that manifest the international documentary scene also illustrate the diversity of the genre.
I hope that many of you will be able to take the opportunity to view these powerful works on screen at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2005 this October. We look forward to seeing you there.
—Asano Fujiko, International Competition Coordinator, the YIDFF Yamagata Office
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