YIDFF 2015 International Competition
Author of book Where Documentary Clashes / Savoring the Yamagata Film Festival
An Interview with Kurata Takeshi

A Film Festival Where You Can Encounter the Unknown of Cinema

Q: Reading through the book, I felt like I was really there, especially the part about the first Yamagata Film Festival’s Asia Symposium. I understand that you are an ardent fan who has never missed a festival. How did you start going there?

KT: The first time was when Editor-in-chief of Eiga Shinbun Kageyama Satoshi, a staunch supporter of Ogawa Shinsuke, asked me if I wanted to come along to help cover the event. I first learned of this cinema journal when I went to see Magino Village—A Tale in Kyoto when it was being shown at the Sennen Theater, a temporary special “movie theater” built with logs, clay, and hay. Featuring auteur filmmakers and supporting them in writing, there was no other journal like it at the time. Published locally in Osaka, it was known nationwide.

I myself was a movie fan since junior high, but at the beginning I was not really that enticed to go to Yamagata. But once I attended the festival, I was overwhelmed by its power. There I found a world of new discoveries, where my preconceptions about documentary crumbled. Roaming the town and meeting the people, I felt at ease. Ever since, I became determined to attend every edition of the event. Because of my work as a high school teacher, it was not easy to just take off. Some schools I was assigned to made it difficult to take days off and some years I could only spend a laughably short time in Yamagata. When I reached retirement age in 2011 and managed to extend my stay to 10 days, I was just overjoyed.

Q: And your love for YIDFF was so strong, you went on to write a book. How did it get published?

KT: Nakano Rie of the film distributor Pandora suggested the idea, and the publisher agreed to making a book out of my manuscript, which was written like a diary over 13 editions of the festival. But the editor pointed out that it would be too difficult for readers in the present form of a personal journal of immense volume. I was at a loss. Finally I reorganized the material into themes and cut down the pages to half, rewrote it all and made it to publication. I hope the book will inspire more people to want to attend YIDFF.

Q: Tell us about the attraction of YIDFF.

KT: I find my body tuning up in good rhythm when I go to there. I don’t often attend other film festivals, because most of them show films that you can see in Osaka or Tokyo anyway. At Yamagata, there are a lot of films you can only see there. The Special Programs are well curated. It’s always so hard to decide to what to see, because I want to see so many. I look forward to reading the catalogues, which are rich in content. There’s a closeness with the filmmakers that allows us to directly share our thoughts with them, and chatting among audience members is so much fun.

The main characteristic of YIDFF is that it has a wide opening but a high peak. The level of cinema and programming is high, and challenges us. For movie fans looking for something new, that’s a wonderfully attractive quality. On one hand it is rigorous and demanding, while on the other hand it is a place where you can encounter the unknown side of cinema. I wish my friend Ichikawa Jun, the director, could have experienced YIDFF before his death seven years ago.

Q: Lastly, what are your expectations for YIDFF in the future?

KT: I want it to continue forever, and continue to be a place where we can always discover something new. I’d like to tell future audiences that they should each find their own ways of experiencing the festival, of discovering things there.

(Compiled by Kusunose Kaori)

Interviewers: Kusunose Kaori, Kawashima Shoichiro / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Kawashima Shoichiro / Video: Kawashima Shoichiro / 2015-09-19 in Osaka