Yamagata City is a regional city 350 km north of Tokyo with a population of about 250,000. Since the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF) was initiated in 1989 as one of the events celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of Yamagata City, it has been held once every two years for a total of seven times. In establishing this film festival, the late Mr. Ogawa Shinsuke created many opportunities for us.

The volunteer activities of Yamagata City citizens give this film festival its character. Before the first film festival, citizens responding to Ogawa’s call gathered to establish the YIDFF Network, the supporting organization which continues to help the film festival. This action crystallized everyone’s hopes for the success of Yamagata’s first film festival. Since then, the YIDFF Network has regularly issued its Network News Bulletin, and has set up chances to meet with directors and film-related people from all over the world in Yamagata.

Another of YIDFF’s special features is the “Komian Club,” a Japanese pickle storehouse borrowed for the duration of the festival and opened every night. The Komian Club serves as a meeting place, supplying food and drinks after each day’s screenings. Surrounded by impassioned conversation about the films that they have just seen, guests and film directors create an incredible midnight atmosphere. In the past few years, it has also functioned as a unique space with access to world information.

There is also the Yamagata Documentary Film Library, established in 1994. The Film Library has about 3,500 videos from all over the world including this year’s festival films and about 120 films and videos screened in past International Competition programs. Films under contract with the copyright owner can be borrowed for any film festival or public screening.

Last but not least, “Friday Screenings” are held twice a month in the library’s 40-seat preview room. The screenings feature works from the Library’s collection as well as a wide assortment of films, some experimental, that come from outside sources. This year we have also started the High School Student Workshop to nurture the next generation of filmmakers.

—Miyazawa Hiraku