Award Recipients: Jury Comments

Prizes for the International Competition

Jury: Ignacio Agüero (Chair), Dina Iordanova, Ranjan Palit, Shichiri Kei

General Comment
Ignacio Agüero

Dear all, for me it is very significant and exciting to be here for the fourth time, including the first version of 1989, when my film One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train was the first film projected in the first international competition of this festival.
From then on, thousands of documentaries have been screened in this beautiful city, which has become so familiar to me.

Jury member Shichiri Kei said, in his juror statement, that he would likely be tossed about at Yamagata like a small ship in the vast ocean of stimulating documentaries, exhausted.
Like Kei, for the past several days we were all submerged in this fantastic vast ocean, navigating amidst documentary films about history and identity, politics and conflict, migration and exile, and a range of films about intimate memories, about dissolving the self, about the ghosts of memory, and about the beauty of passing time. We were tossed about from the shore of Hadenya to Calabria then to the Bronx and back again to Asia, from Wuhan and Ninh Hoa to Gujarat and Subic, from Río de Janeiro to Prague. The imagery varied from beautiful to disturbing, the methods ranged from longitudinal engagement to reenactment, the camerawork was sometimes static and sometimes relentlessly fluid, all backed by extensive and meticulous research of archival footage and cinematic quotations.

For us on the jury it was a fascinating five days journey—exhausting but equally satisfying. The perennial issues of who is entitled to speak for whom and what is the essence of documentary kept popping up in our own discussions, and we had the chance to rehearse all over again our arguments against the background of an amazingly thought-provoking and democratically-compiled program in which first time filmmakers rubbed shoulders with venerable veterans.

For the three decades of its existence, the Yamagata International Documentary Festival has established itself as the most authoritative festival of this kind in Asia. It works to highest standards and enjoys tremendous reputation among the global community of documentarians.

We are immensely impressed:
- with the elaborate and careful selection process,
- with the utmost professionalism of curatorial choices,
- with the most attentive and engaged audience,
- with the most competent translators
- with the technical high quality of the screenings, including the turning off of the annoying security lights
- and with the warm and generous disposition of staff and volunteers.  

Producing this festival is a veritable community effort. So, as far as we are concerned, the festival, which is recognized worldwide, has already put Yamagata on the world map as a creative city, with or without UNESCO’s stamp of approval.
It was an enriching and fulfilling experience for all of us. ARIGATOGOZAIMASU.

• The Robert and Frances Flaherty Prize (The Grand Prize)
POLAND / 2016 / 72 min
Anna Zamecka

An accurate film, accomplished in every aspect, that works with the characters in a transparent and radical way, taking the dramaturgy and the connection with the soul of the protagonist to the extreme. Getting inserted in the center of a family drama, it transforms the characters into very cherished beings. The film reveals a very gifted director in her feature film debut.

• The Mayor’s Prize
A Memory in Khaki
QATAR / 2016 / 108 min
Alfoz Tanjour

“Salmon fight the stream to return to their birth location, to renew life. But if the river gets sold, the fish will jump ashore to her death . . .”—This is a quote from one of the protagonists of this incredibly powerful film, which serves as a metaphor on the condition of exile. The film speaks metaphorically about khaki, as a color, uniform, and as a symbol of oppression, in societies all over the world.

• Award of Excellence
Lone Existence
CHINA / 2016 / 77 min
Sha Qing

A gaze is enough to reveal one’s thoughts and emotions—even without words or behavior. This holds true not only for what one looks at, but what one hears. For example, one’s mind is reflected in how and which sounds of the cacophony of the external world are heard. In this film, each precise shot and the skillfully constructed sound design modestly but exquisitely achieves this end. Subsequently, the film reaches a deep introspection on the fundamental solitude of humankind.

• Award of Excellence
I Am Not Your Negro
Raoul Peck

I Am Not Your Negro is a seminal film which will endure long beyond the acclaim of the day. We recognize it for its passion and eloquence, for its articulate argumentation, for its extraordinarily sourced material, and for the elegance of its anger.

• Special Prize
In the Intense Now
BRAZIL / 2017 / 127 min
João Moreira Salles

A complex and beautiful film that builds a world of associations from the images, which makes us relive and at the same time think about the moments of history. Without having filmed a single image, the film is the sewing of materials that move from intimacy to the facts of history, generating in the viewer the pleasure and work of looking, re-watching, thinking, after the workers leave the factory.


New Asian Currents Awards

Jury: Teddy Co, Shiozaki Toshiko

General Comment

Congratulations to all the 21 filmmakers. All of you are already winners, having bested about 700 titles that were submitted to the New Asian Currents section of YIDFF 2017. Documentary filmmaking has greatly evolved since the time of pioneers like Robert Flaherty and Joris Ivens. In the past days, we the jury members saw a whole wide range of documentary forms: from the observational to the re-enacted; from the realistic to the fantastic; from the factual to the poetic, which used a vast array of techniques: Talking heads, found footages, non-linear montage, sound art, and long takes.

But let’s get to the point. The world has changed greatly in the past year and a half. In these times of fake news, alternative facts, and encroaching authoritarianism, we need the power of truth to counter these disturbing developments. We think documentary should play its vital role in depicting these truths by going back to basics, and deal with reality head-on, with minimal artifice as much as possible. But in doing so, let us not forget the most important ingredient in what good documentary should convey—the human condition.

At the 1st Yamagata Film Festival in 1989, I had met and talked with the filmmaker Ogawa Shinsuke, who inspired me with his passion for cinema, and dedication to filming the truth about Japanese peoples’ lives. He also talked about new ideas and innovations in making documentaries. He was the beacon of light that guided the Yamagata Film Festival from its inception until now, 28 years later. May his spirit shine on and live on in all of you filmmakers who are inside this hall tonight.

• Ogawa Shinsuke Prize
HONG KONG / 2016 / 128 min
Chan Tze-Woon

In encouraging the spirit of resistance and allowing idealistic young people to voice out their concerns about current events, bravely standing in the line of fire to confront the forces of suppression and indifference, in order to create a just, free, and more tolerant society, the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize is awarded to Yellowing, by Chan Tze-Woon.

• Award of Excellence
The Slice Room
KOREA / 2016 / 69 min
Song Yun-hyeok

Patiently immersing himself in the day-to-day existence of society's homeless underclass, and highlighting key emotional moments to show their humanity despite the misery of their lives, in order to create empathy for them, the Award for Excellence goes to The Slice Room, by Song Yun-hyeok.

• Award of Excellence
Up Down & Sideways
INDIA / 2017 / 83 min
Anushka Meenakshi, Iswar Srikumar

Filming in difficult terrain that’s undergoing political strife, but overcoming barriers of racial enmity, language and cultural divide to produce a wonderful symphony of a happy people and their way of life, the Award of Excellence goes to Up Down & Sideways, by Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar.

• Special Mention
Bamseom Pirates, Seoul Inferno
KOREA / 2017 / 119 min
Jung Yoon-suk

By creating a kinetic rush with its energetic splash of multi-media visuals, sound effects, pop graphics and animation, and approaching documentary with a strong dose of fun and levity, the Special Mention award goes to Bamseon Pirates, Seoul Inferno, by Jung Yoon-suk.

• Special Mention
City of Jade
TAIWAN, MYANMAR / 2016 / 99 min
Midi Z

By undertaking a personal journey to explore the story of his brother, the filmmaker discovers personal truths about himself and his family. As the beneficiary of his brother’s sacrifices, he has become the jade treasure in his family. The Special Mention award goes to City of Jade, by Midi Z.


Citizens’ Prizes

Sennan Asbestos Disaster
JAPAN / 2017 / 215 min
Hara Kazuo


Directors Guild of Japan Award

Jury: John Junkerman, Nakamura Yoshihiro, Negoro Yu, Takahara Hidekazu
Up Down & Sideways
INDIA / 2017 / 83 min
Anushka Meenakshi, Iswar Srikumar

From the beginnings with Robert Flaherty, visual anthropology was at the root of documentary film, but in our world today that is riven by serious ethnic and religious confrontation and conflict, the dangers associated with this genre have increased, as has the importance of the work.
In this film, made in the Nagaland state in India, where there is a history of cruel warfare and where conflict continues to this day, the bonds of people in the village are bolstered by cooperative labor and group singing, giving strength to communal society.
The film gives us the opportunity to experience life in the village and the rhythms of song. The filmmakers’ talents are displayed in the composition of every single frame of the film, their carefully measured distance from the subjects, the intelligence of the editing and the richness of the sound.
It is very rare to encounter a film that begins with the sound of laughter and ends with the sound of laughter.
This film not only expands the possibilities of film, it expands our possibilities as human beings.