For the first Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in 1989, we had planned to screen A Tale of the Wind as a special invitation film with its director, Joris Ivens, in attendance. Like the wind in his film, however, the ninety-year old Ivens suddently left this world in June of that year, and we were sadly unable to realize our hopes of bringing him to Japan. Since then, we have continued to screen Ivens's films - Borinage in the YIDFF '95 program "7 Spectres - Transfigurations in Electronic Shadows" and The 400 Million in the YIDFF '97 program "Imperial Japan at the Movies" - as a part of our ongoing effort to probe and question the essence and transformations of the documentary genre.
For our sixth festival, our tenth year, and what will be our last festival of the century, it seemed only natural to organize a retrospective featuring as many of Ivens's most representative films as possible. But, getting such a program off the planning table meant reaching beyond the meager resources and information at my disposal, and in my subsequent forays on the internet, I met and began an e-mail correspondence with Kees Bakker, a scholar of Joris Ivens's work and coordinator of the European Foundation Joris Ivens (located in Joris Ivens's birthplace, Nijmegen). I sincerely recommend that you check out the thorough and very valuable data that can be found on the Foundation's homepage, created in 1998 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Ivens's birth. As the retrospective gradually started to take shape in communication with the Foundation, we felt it best to ask them to jointly coordinate the event with us. Working with the European Foundation Joris Ivens has been the Yamagata Festival's first effort at co-coordinating an event internationally, and it seems especially befitting for a man nicknamed "The Flying Dutchman."
The twentieth century has been called a century of war and revolutions, and Ivens was there at many of its turning points. The retrospective allows us to follow Ivens's work across the decades, from Wigwam (1912), which he shot as a thirteen-year-old boy, to his last film A Tale of the Wind (1988). But the program's true strength lies in our opportunity to ponder in one event what has changed and what remains universal in both film and history at the very same time as we discern the shifts and the permanence of Ivens's own gaze, his philosophy, and his artistry.
While a bit daring, let me suggest yet another way to enjoy the program. For some of Ivens's films, there are actually several versions that differ not only in the narrator's voice or the language of the subtitles, but apparently sometimes in the length itself. Of course, such variations have much to due with the differences both in period and place as well as in the censorship politics of each country where the particular film was screened. Currently the Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, is restoring each of the shots cut out in different locales in order to restore the uncut, original version. Because replacing the cut segments is an ongoing process that even the Ivens Foundation has been unable to keep fully abreast of, there may be some discrepancies in screen time for many (or perhaps most) of the films in the retrospective. Indeed, we ourselves will not know how long some of the prints are until they actually arrive and we can screen them. In some cases, the extent to which a film has been altered will become apparent for the first time here in Yamagata. It is as if we have assembled films by Ivens that are still alive within their celluloid frames.
When we have not been able to get hold of a version with both English and Japanese for the retrospective, we will provide subtitles, simultaneous interpreting, or pre-recorded simultaneous interpreting. In the latter case, we record the interpreting onto videotape beforehand. Still, if the version on video is not the same as the version being screened, the pre-recorded interpretation will go out of synch. So, if the timing of the subtitles or the translation is off, please take these factors into consideration before running up to tell the projectionist. I also hope you will not hesitate to tell us afterwards exactly what you noticed. Your comments will further the correction of the record, and in a small way, we will be able to contribute to the vast work of the Ivens Foundation. The fact that this retrospective continues to move in directions we had not anticipated is one of the things that makes a film festival exciting, and if it is able develop through a close connection with its audience, then it will have done the best of what a film festival can do.
In any case, our film festival is its own one-week long documentary, and that documentary is starting to roll.
Ono Seiko (Coordinator, Kaze - A Joris Ivens Retrospective)
COPYRIGHT:Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee