New Docs Japan

Japanese documentaries can’t be subsumed within a single trend. About 15% of all the works submitted from around the world to YIDFF were made in Japan, or made abroad with Japanese participation, or with the intention of depicting Japan. And there are many other excellent pieces that were not submitted.

They resist simple labels like “Japanese film” or “Japanese production,” or descriptive terms based on the film’s origin. But this very undefinability allows each work to project a generosity of spirit, which in turn inspires waves of multi-culturalism amidst us. For example, the vitality-packed films by Japanese women living overseas brim with the possibilities of breaking through to unknown territory; and filmmakers from abroad who place themselves face to face with Japanese subjects draw out unexpected encounters and discoveries by transcending language and cultural barriers with animal-like instinct.

At the same time, the methodology of filmmaking is growing ever more diversified. Stalwart filmmakers grappling head-on with documentary form decipher memories carried by people and places along the temporal axis of the present, and actively open up the future. In contrast, personal films travel along completely different vectors; they bring back memories of pleasure derived from the magic of light, and challenge the viewer to experience delightful ways of savoring film.

Further, in works dealing with regional tradition and folklore from the contemporary perspective of community-building, various “mediums”—a gigantic torch, a neighborhood uncle—are used to record the invisible gods and spirits that reside in all natural phenomena. These films give multi-layered meanings of life, body, and soul to the communities that keep tradition alive.

Encompassing these whirling magnetic fields, New Docs Japan itself becomes a whirl within the film festival and resonates with the other programs. What on earth are we going to encounter amidst this festive heaving and swelling, the entirety of which no one can grasp?

Mabuchi Ai