Yamagata is a city with a population of about 250,000, located some 350 km north of Tokyo. Sixteen years ago, in 1989, a film festival was established here as one of the events commemorating the centennial of the city’s founding.

Since then the festival has been held biennially, and this year marks the 9th YIDFF. The efforts of late director Ogawa Shinsuke played a major role in the festival’s establishment. His hopes for the festival, in particular the introduction of young Asian filmmakers and outstanding films to the world, live on today. During the festival numerous documentaries from Asia as well as Japan are screened at many venues, and some of these go on to spread their wings further around the globe.

Almost all of the feature length documentaries gathered here from around the world will be shown in Japan for the first time. With an appeal beyond words, they fire our imagination with their ability to deal with themes and events ignored by mass media. Furthermore, through screenings of works that fill a gap in film history or combined screenings of documentary and fiction films, we have broadened a documentary field that is often prone to stereotypical narration.

The film festival is not just about enjoying films; personal interaction between filmgoers is another big appeal. People from all over Japan and from every part of the world interact at the venues, on street corners and at the Komian Club, a restaurant that has been turned into a place of exchange for this event. These opportunities contribute not only to the building of friendships and exchange of information, but also to crosscultural understanding and the promotion of grassroots international exchange.

When we talk about “people,” we should also mention the many indispensable volunteers who support this film festival. Seventeen years ago they set up a prefecture-wide network that helped with preparations for the film festival. Since then they have come to shoulder important parts of the administration. This year once again many volunteers will be on the move around town.

Even if it is just one film, one encounter with a new friend, it is our sincere hope that you will feel the richness of this film festival.

—Miyazawa Hiraku