Yamagata and Film

Three Universities Program

Tohoku University of Art and Design
Chinese Academy of Art
University of Milan

Kyoto University of Art and Design

Visual Folk History of Yamagata

Yamagata in Film

The 8mm Films of Kiyotaki Akira

Images of Family in the Magic Lantern

Symposium: Film Education and the Creation of Local Culture
Lecture and Symposium: Striving to Become a Creative City of Visual Culture
Workshop: Presentation on Home Movies Association—Expanded Archives

Supported by Yamagata Prefectural Foundation of Lifelong Learning and Culture

The Mysterious Force Behind this Film Festival

This year marks the 13th Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, which has enjoyed an ever-increasing amount of attention since its inception in 1989. Nevertheless, there may still be many who wonder how Yamagata became the venue for this festival.

Perhaps because our harsh winters prevent other forms of recreation, Yamagata has always been fertile ground for the development of an entertainment industry where movies reign king. Another crucial factor linking Yamagata to this film festival was the uprooting of Ogawa Productions, led by Ogawa Shinsuke, from its old base in Sanrizuka, Chiba to its new base in Kaminoyama, Yamagata. But no matter how long we consider this question, our inability to come up with a single definitive answer makes us wonder whether there may have been some other mysterious catalyst that provided the final push for bringing this film festival to Yamagata. The underlying mission of this Yamagata and Film program—the fourth of its kind—is to identify the nature of this mysterious force.

In past years, we have offered audiences a retrospective view of Yamagata with recently discovered archival footage of the region, and the positive reaction we received has prompted us to continue these screenings this year as well. In addition to PR films produced by Yamagata City, prefectural news films, and other films produced and stored by the local government on 16mm film, we will also be showing 8mm films that were recorded and preserved by amateur filmmaker and former Sanzan Railway Line employee Kiyotaki Akira. We believe that this rare footage of the Sanzan Railway, which closed in 1974, is essential viewing not only for railway enthusiasts, but for all audiences as well.

Along with these films that take us back in time to the Yamagata of the past, our program features student films from the Tohoku University of Art and Design. This year, we have expanded this segment into a “Three University Program” that includes works from the China Academy of Art, located in Hangzhou, China, and the University of Milan. We hope our audiences will enjoy the diverse works of the young filmmakers who will no doubt form the backbone of the YIDFF in the future.

The “Visual Folk History of Yamagata” program remains under the direction of Kuroki Aruji, who has acted as the coordinator of this program since its first year and has recently made his debut as an author of ghost stories. This year’s program will consider why the natural and cultural landscapes that appear in historical footage are slowly vanishing from our lives, as it explores the meaning that lies behind our documentation of the world around us. A symposium featuring literary critic Higashi Masao will also be a part of this year’s program.

Finally, the “Striving to Become a Creative City of Visual Culture” symposium will clarify the link between Yamagata and film as it highlights Yamagata’s rich film history and helps us articulate and strengthen our resolve to transform Yamagata into a “city of film,” in both name and reality. Although we cannot be certain whether this symposium will in fact illuminate the true nature of that “mysterious force” which supports and sustains the YIDFF, there is no doubt that our continued quest to find an answer to this question has been, and will continue to be, a driving force behind this film festival.

Kato Itaru
Program Coordinator