New Asian Currents

New Asian Currents 2001

. . . So, what’s the trend for New Asian Currents this year?

—It’s a dreadful question I’m often faced with. The Japanese name for my program New Asian Currents literally means “A thousand waves, ten thousand waves.” And as the name goes, there are lots of currents—big, small, strong, weak, all making waves in various places around Asia. So how do I explain this platter of diversity in a nutshell?

Meanwhile, contemplating this question makes me realize how isolated each region’s documentarists are from each other within Asia. Vanguard filmmakers are making waves in each country, but within the big blue sea, the currents aren’t quite reaching each other.

It’s true that for example in 1999 a strong wave of robust and original films were emerging from Taiwan. Supported by the new international documentary film festival in Taipei and the documentary program at the national graduate school for the arts in Tainan, many talented young filmmakers debuted, whose films were invited to YIDFF ’99. Swimming on the Highway by Wu Yao-tung won the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize.

This year, we see a strong group of new documentaries from Korea. The themes run wide and deep, with international and historical perspectives, and the filmmakers are predominantly female. Without the backing and financial support of the state’s KOFIC (Korean Film Commission), such a huge number of non-commercial films could not be made, nor could Korea’s many international film festivals with flowing funds take place.

In China we see Wu Wenguang (director of At Home in the World and Jiang Hu: Life on the Road) supporting those making documentaries on digital video by organizing regular screenings of films and promoting the genre’s coverage in cultural magazines. As a result, young artists are starting to make personal films in a free and easy manner.

In Bangkok, in the steps of the overseas success of Thai entertainment films, organizations like Thai Film Foundation and Kick the Machine offer support to the production and distribution of experimental and short films made by emerging filmmakers, as well as the preservation and restoration of old films.

There’s no doubt about it—independent Asian documentary filmmaking is making waves all around the region. Even in Bangladesh or Palestine or Singapore, a small number of vigorous directors are at work. As YIDFF has seen over the years since the first Asian Program in 1991, there is talent in Asia; there are themes in Asia. And finally we are seeing the fledgling buds of public and private organizational support to improve the environment for documentary filmmakers and audiences.

And yet the thousand and ten thousand waves—do they simply stream alongside the other? Do they ever break against each other? Will they converge to create a larger, stronger torrent? Do the swirls change each other’s shapes? Is it possible that the smaller regional movements within Asia will meet each other and influence each other’s growth?

The motivation for YIDFF to invite as many filmmakers as possible lies in the wish to offer them a chance to see each other’s works and meet each other. With an increase of other opportunities within Asia to screen the world’s documentaries, local filmmakers will be inspired, an audience will be cultivated, and the emerging informal support system will be strengthened. Moreover, it’s a pity if great films don’t get seen.

—Fujioka Asako, Coordinator of New Asian Currents

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