Yamagata and the Postwar Era

With the Assistance of: Tohoku University of Art and Design, Yamagata University

Seventy years since the end of World War II, rather than dedicate this program to an abstract remembrance of the war—which was a result, a process, and a starting point—we will instead seek to uncover concrete traces of the war in Yamagata. We seek not to capture some vague “big picture,” but to witness and understand what has been etched into the lives and hearts of the people of Yamagata. Only by absorbing history from the ground up can real stories of the war be passed down to future generations. The works in this program represent a range of styles, methods, and even creators, who include members of the general public, students, and television stations.

- A Voiceless Cry

(Muon no sakebigoe Kimura Michio no Makinomura monogatari)

JAPAN / 2015 / Japanese / Color / Blu-ray / 122 min
Director: Haramura Masaki

Poet Kimura Michio was the first-born son of a sharecropper in Magino, in the city of Kaminoyama. He lost his father in the Pacific War, and later in peacetime he found himself at the mercy of the government’s misguided agricultural policies. Since his teens, he has toiled in the fields, provided for his family, and experienced life in his village first-hand. The film is a look at how Kimura has woven together the silenced voices of farmers in his poetry for over 60 years.

- YIDFF 2015 Closing Film
Sepia-Tinted Testimony: Hidden Photos of the Huanggutun Incident

(Sepiairo no shogen)

JAPAN / 1986 / Japanese / Color, B&W / DVD / 53 min
Production Company: Yamagata Broadcasting

Over forty years after the end of World War II, the Yamagata Broadcasting Company uncovered sixty-one photos of the Huanggutun Incident that had been secretly stored away by a resident in Fujishima (the present-day city of Tsuruoka), who had been a special agent in the Imperial Japanese Army. The film traces the photos’ hapless fate, tracks down those who still live with scars from the incident, and examines the backdrop against which Japan’s runaway military assassinated a dignitary in a neighboring country. The film won the top prize at the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association’s JBA Awards, and the Galaxy Award for television.

- Aru senpan no shazai—Tsuchiya moto kenpei shoui to chugoku

JAPAN / 1990 / Japanese / Color, B&W / DVD / 27 min
Production Company: Yamagata Broadcasting

Tsuchiya Yoshio of Kaminoyama City travels to China for the first time in forty-five years. During World War II, he’d been deployed as a member of the Japanese military police to Qiqihar in northeastern China, and in the twelve years he was in the military, he took 1,917 people into custody and both directly and indirectly killed countless Chinese. Now, he was headed to China to apologize. What did the war and what happened after mean to this former military police officer, who passed away in 2001? The film won an award for excellence at the Age of Regionalism Video Festival.

- Ryakudatsu—Aru gocho no enzai

JAPAN / 1993 / Japanese / Color, B&W / DVD / 27 min
Production Company: Yamagata Broadcasting

A former Japanese corporal was sentenced to prison after a military court found him guilty of looting in China at the end of the Pacific war, but half a century later he claims he was innocent. He tracks down former soldiers, superiors, and military police officers, but is unable to gather definitive testimony that would overturn his guilty sentence. Meanwhile, countless criminal acts committed by the Imperial Japanese Army in China are revealed. This film won an award for excellence at the Age of Regionalism Video Festival.

- Anata mata senso desuyo—Nokosareta tsumatachi no shuki

JAPAN / 2005 / Japanese / Color, B&W / DVD / 46 min
Production Company: Yamagata Broadcasting

In 1998, Yamagata-ken Izokukai—an association for relatives of those who died in war—published a book of essays written by bereaved family members. Thirty-six wives of fallen soldiers who contributed to the book have continued to meet since, releasing an anthology of essays every year. The women who lost their husbands to war are no longer young, but surrounded by the beautiful rural landscape of Yamagata, their expressions are warm. Things are not so simple however, just underneath the surface. The film received an award for excellence at the JBA Awards, and the Broadcast Creators Association of Japan Grand Prix.

- Kodomo no koro senso ga atta—Daigakusei ga kiku senso taiken

JAPAN / 2015 / Japanese / Color / Blu-ray / 110 min
Producer: Tohoku University of Art and Design

In this collection of interviews, sixty-one freshmen students at Tohoku University of Art and Design of Yamagata ask prefectural residents who lived through the Pacific War if they have any happy memories from the war era, and how they managed to keep going. What were these elders’ childhoods like, when they were constantly just a step away from death? The stories of everyday lives in wartime bring the abnormal essence of war into harsh relief.