Yamagata City is located 350 km north of Tokyo, with a population of approximately 250,000 people. While it is the prefectural capital of Yamagata, it is a mid-sized city like any other in Japan. However, this city dramatically transforms into a “movie capital” every two years.
The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF) began in 1989 to commemorate the centennial of the city’s founding. Since then it has been hosted biennially, with this year’s 2007 festival marking its tenth run. Through this festival, we believe that we have been able to present to the fullest both the possibilities and the future, as well as “the now,” of visual images, while creating an environment that calls for the constant redefining of the term “documentary film.”
In addition to the International Competition, one of the mainstays of this festival has been programs with an “Asian perspective.” It is safe to say that this reflects the last wishes of the late director Ogawa Shinsuke, who was producing documentaries based in Magino, Kaminoyama City, right next to Yamagata City, during the pioneering days of the festival. There is no doubt that we have inherited his DNA. The situation regarding Asian documentaries has greatly changed in the last twenty years, and we have always accepted those changes wholeheartedly to introduce new visual images to our audience. As a result, many talented filmmakers have come out of Yamagata and set off into the world. This is something that we are most proud of.
It is not only for this that Yamagata is a “movie capital,” however. It is because of the volunteers—including the many Yamagata City residents who help manage the festival; Yamagata City, which provides physical and spiritual support; and the various corporations who unite as one for the festival—that this is a true movie capital. We must also not forget that the cultural backdrop of Yamagata as it relates to film is also a source of great energy. Yamagata was one of the most active cities in promoting film screenings during the postwar period, was active in constructing cinemas for its people, and so on—this relationship between Yamagata and film forms the backbone of the festival. Starting this year, we are beginning a new program which explores in depth this relationship, titled “Films about Yamagata.” This is anticipated to be an extremely interesting program, with an array of unexpected films. When all of these works are added to the mix, we believe that Yamagata will truly live up to the title of “movie capital.”
In order to bring the “movie capital” to life, we will actively be involved in offering various opportunities for visitors. One such example is Komian, a place for industry participants to interact with Yamagata citizens. Cinema-goers around the world are already saying, “See you in Komian!” Another is the Daily Bulletin, released every day throughout the festival; volunteers from around Japan will conduct interviews and edit the paper. Volunteers will also manage the selection and awarding of the Citizens’ Prize. All of these projects began with the concept that we should run the film festival ourselves, rather than relying on institutions. And that is what the YIDFF is all about. So, welcome to Yamagata. Dreams about film, and shocking revelations that will jeopardize the mundaneness of your everyday life, await you.