A program that began with the very first YIDFF. Feature-length works were sought from around the world, and from the 1,078 entries emerges a stringent selection of 15 cinematic gems, richly varied and representing the vanguard of world filmmaking.
Venues: Yamagata Central Public Hall 6F, Yamagata Citizens’ Hall (Large Hall)
Atom Egoyan’s ingenious documentary Citadel masquerades a family video with his wife, actress Arsinée Khanjian (who will be attending YIDFF!), paying a visit to her childhood home, Beirut. Haile Gerima’s elusive masterwork Harvest: 3,000 Years will be screened. Ichioka Yasuko’s Kula—Argonauts of the Western Pacific, from “Our Wonderful World” travel series that ran for over 20 years from 1966, will make its big screen debut. Fernando Pérez’ Habana Suite, which depicts the daily lives of 12 residents of Havana through images and music, has been seen by 300,000 in Cuba.
- CHINA / 2010 / Naxi language / Color / Video / 145 min
Director: He Yuan
Northern Yunnan Province, China. Farmer Apuda, of the Naxi ethnic minority, lives together with his elderly and infirmed father. Amid the dim light in the darkened interior of their home, he helps him put on his clothes, light a cigarette, and get out of bed. As well as caring for his father, Apuda is kept busy tending to their fruit trees and drawing water. Occasionally one of the neighborhood elders stops by, grumbling about their own son’s lack of kindness. Observing this father and son living in a remote mountain village with a serene rhythm and rich imagery, it evokes the drama of life and death. Two of He Yuan’s previous works, Hani Textile Arts in Jinping and The Son Is Not at Home, screened as part of the Yunnan Visual Forum in Yamagata at YIDFF 2005.
- DENMARK / 2010 / Danish, English / Color / 35mm / 101 min
Director: Janus Metz
www.dfi.dk/faktaomfilm/danishfilms/ . . .
A depiction of tension-filled days at Camp Armadillo on the Helmand Frontline in Afghanistan that closely follows Danish soldiers stationed there for peacekeeping operations. As they adapt to their high-pressure daily routine that includes skirmishes with the Taliban, the soldiers gradually become addicted to the adrenaline rush. Director Janus Metz, who has also helmed television drama series, propels the story forward at an exhilarating pace. The camera keeps shooting as the soldiers exchange fire with the enemy, revealing their frenzied emotional state.
• Oct. 8 A6 | Oct. 11 A6
- The Collaborator and His Family
- USA, ISRAEL, FRANCE / 2011 / Hebrew, Arabic / Color / Video / 84 min
Directors: Ruthie Shatz, Adi Barash
A father who has worked as a collaborator for Israel for years is forced to leave Palestine, and takes his wife and five children to live in Tel Aviv. Although he has moved there to seek Israeli protection, he is not granted official permission to reside in the country, and his family have no choice but to lead an unremittingly precarious existence. Regarded as traitors by Palestine, and cut loose by Israel, their lives are buffeted by a series of incidents in this thrilling portrait. From the directors of Garden, which featured in New Asian Currents at YIDFF 2005.
• Oct. 7 CL | Oct. 10 A6
- Day Is Done
- SWITZERLAND / 2011 / Swiss German / Color / 35mm / 111 min
Director: Thomas Imbach
A smokestack looming over the suburbs, passenger jets taking off, and many other incidents on the streets below as seen from the window of a studio, recorded diligently for over 15 years. Meanwhile, messages left on an answering machine provide fragments of the director’s personal life. Everyday scenery that sometimes speeds up with time lapse photography, and voices that offer hints regarding the filmmaker’s lifestyle. Both overlap within the flow of time, profiling a cross section of the world. The title is taken from a song by Nick Drake.
• Oct. 7 CL | Oct. 10 A6
- Distinguished Flying Cross
- USA / 2011 / English / Color / Video / 62 min
Director: Travis Wilkerson
A man in the twilight of his years, who served as a helicopter combat in the Vietnam War, spiritedly recounts his experiences. Listening to his recollections are his two adult sons, sitting on either side of him. His war stories, told humorously as reckless shenanigans, gradually change in tone to the viewer’s eyes as they unfold within a frame composition reminiscent of religious painting and novel-like chapters. Weaving in color film shot by soldiers on the battlefield and lively pop music that might have been heard there then, the growing dissonance with the man’s tales reverberates throughout this cinematic adventure. From the director of Accelerated Development—In the Idiom of Santiago Alvarez which screened at YIDFF ’99. Appearances are by the director, his father and younger brother.
- The Embrace of the River
- BELGIUM, COLOMBIA / 2010 / Spanish / Color / Video / 73 min
Director: Nicolas Rincon Gille
The 1,540 kilometer-long Magdalena River flows from western Colombia into the Caribbean Sea. The people who live along its banks have historically revered Mohan, the spirit of the river who provides their daily sustenance and also takes their lives in aquatic accidents. Amid a thick, mysterious fog, people offer cigars and local distilled liquor to Mohan in exchange for a bountiful catch of fish. Stories of encounters with Mohan are eloquently told, propelled by the voluminous flow of the river. Eventually, numerous testimonies regarding floating body parts dismembered in massacres bring us into contact with the realities that Colombia faces today. It adeptly unites these truths with the river as an intersection of life and death, the living and spirits, and quietly laments the fierce anger and deep sadness of women who have lost their sons and siblings.
• Oct. 9 A6 | Oct. 10 CL
- Images of a Lost City
- USA, PORTUGAL / 2011 / Portuguese / Color / Video / 92 min
Director: Jon Jost
A street corner in Lisbon, Portugal. Women sit on a bench in a stone-paved square at the top of a hill. Youths mess around with motorbikes. People walk up and down the hill. Languid, listless light and wind. A tram. Children having fun playing soccer. The sound of a guitar, overlapping with the long shadows of trees. These may be ordinary everyday scenes, but they are also beautiful and somehow melancholy. What thoughts are hidden within this visual poem dedicated to a “lost city”, filmed over 15 years by John Jost. His Plain Talk and Common Sense (Uncommon Senses) (1987) screened at YIDFF ’89; London Brief screened at YIDFF ’97; 6 Easy Pieces (2000) won a Runner-Up Prize in 2001; and Oui Non (2002) screened at YIDFF 2003.
- Kantoku Shikkaku
- JAPAN / 2011 / Japanese / Color / Video / 111 min
Director: Hirano Katsuyuki
In 2005, actress Hayashi Yumika passed away before her time at the age of 34. This is a love story in which the director recalls his travels with her on a bicycle trip from Tokyo to Hokkaido’s Rebun Island in 1997 to film Yumika, the moment he realized she was dead, and the years since in which he has been unable to make a film, as well as pouring out his heart about his romantic attachment to her. The teetering battle between the director, who attempts to control the film, and Yumika who confronts him with her raw emotions, constantly shakes the film’s equilibrium to mesmerizing effect. Our relationship with actress Hayashi Yumika is eternal. . . . Hirano’s White screened at YIDFF ’99.
• Oct. 7 A6 | Oct. 10 CL
- FRANCE / 2010 / French / Color / 35mm / 70 min
Director: Nicolas Philibert
Nénette, an orangutan from Borneo who lives at a botanical garden in Paris, has reached the grand old age of 40! The longest resident of the gardens, she is a popular attraction and spends everyday being stared at through glass by the hundreds of men, women, boys and girls who pass by her cage. Images of Nénette and the other orangutans overlap with the voices of the gardens’ staff and visitors, with the viewer ultimately experiencing 70 minutes under Nénette’s gaze. The latest work from Nicolas Philibert, whose In the Land of the Deaf screened at YIDFF ’93.
• Oct. 7 A6 | Oct. 10 A6
- Nomad’s Home
- EGYPT, GERMANY, UAE, KUWAIT / 2010 / Arabic, English / Color / Video / 61 min
Director: Iman Kamel
A journey through the remote, bleak deserts of the Sinai Peninsula brings the filmmaker into contact with Selema, a female entrepreneur who resides there. In a drought-stricken village near Moses Mountain, she was the first girl from her community to attend school. Supported by her husband, she challenges local customs and attempts to bring economic power and education to Bedouin women. The lifestyles of these women, shown from the director’s personal perspective, eventually resonate and overlap poetically with the nomadic past of the director herself, who was born and raised in Egypt and moved from place to place before settling in her current home of Berlin.
• Oct. 8 CL | Oct. 11 A6
- Nostalgia for the Light
- FRANCE, GERMANY, CHILE / 2010 / Spanish / Color, B&W / 35mm / 90 min
Director: Patricio Guzmán
www.patricioguzman.com | www.icarusfilms.com/new2011/ . . .
Chile’s Atacama Desert, 3,000 meters altitude, attracts astronomers from around the world. Director Patricio Guzman talks of his interest in astronomy from an early age while introducing the astronomical mecca of Atacama, and also reveals that it was a theater of oppression by Pinochet’s military junta. Time is regarded as eternal in astronomy, but for the families of the junta’s victims who continue to search for the remains of their loved ones, it has come to a standstill. Guzman, who has continued to depict Chilean history in his films, impresses with his striking resignation-filled narrative and overwhelming visuals.
• Oct. 7 A6 | Oct. 10 A6
- Position among the Stars
- THE NETHERLANDS / 2010 / Indonesian / Color / Video / 111 min
Director: Leonard Retel Helmrich
The conclusion to a trilogy, filmed over 12 years, that follows an Indonesian family. Centered on a grandmother who has come from the countryside to visit her granddaughter, who has lived with her uncle’s family since the death of her parents, it briskly captures arguments between the uncle, who lacks a steady job but devotes himself to his fighting fish, and his disapproving wife, and the problem of whether the rebellious granddaughter will go to university. While skilfully touching upon religious conflict, the gap between rich and poor, and attitudinal differences between generations, this work uses fleet-footed camerawork to dramatically and humorously depict the everyday lives of ordinary people with strong familial bonds. Director Helmrich’s Promised Paradise was screened at YIDFF 2009.
• Oct. 9 CL | Oct. 11 A6
- Vapor Trail (Clark)
- USA, THE PHILIPPINES / 2010 / English, Tagalog / Color / Video / 264 min
Director: John Gianvito
At the sites of former U.S. military bases in the Philippines that were once vital staging areas for wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, local residents are suffering from serious health problems due to soil contamination by chemical agents. This film not only listens carefully to the voices of the struggling victims and their families, but also turns the camera on the battles and turbulent personal history of an activist who supports them, shining a light on the patterns of social inequality that have repeatedly emerged in the modern history of the Philippines, and the dignity of the oppressed. Furthermore, it mixes in photos depicting the nation’s historical relations with America in the late 19th century, and analyzes the lingering influence of its subjugation. A homage to Tsuchimoto Noriaki.
- What Is to Be Done?
- FRANCE / 2010 / Arabic / Color / Video / 152 min
Director: Emmanuelle Demoris
Mafrouza is a slum town in Alexandria, Egypt. The camera enters its narrow maze-like alleyways, inviting the viewer to experience the same air as its residents and the gentle flow of time there. An elderly man troubled by flooding in his home; young people who sing and dance in the streets at night; and the proprietor of a grocery who preaches at a mosque. We silently lend an ear to their views on life, passion, and relationships with the world outside, often with a cup of tea or cigarette in one hand. All evoke the joy of living.
• Oct. 9 A6 | Oct. 11 CL
- The Woman with the 5 Elephants
- SWITZERLAND, GERMANY / 2009 / German, Russian / Color, B&W / 35mm / 93 min
Director: Vadim Jendreyko
An elderly literary translator, with a sharp gaze that conveys a noble intellect. The hands with which she conscientiously carries out her work are engraved with deep lines representing her memories of wartime. Born in Ukraine, she emigrated to Germany early on during World War II, and has continued to question her own past even after gaining recognition for translating five of Dostoevsky’s major novels, which she calls as the “Five Elephants.” On her first visit to her hometown after moving to Germany, the tumultuous history of Ukraine comes back to haunt her. Quietly tracing the life led by this woman, its tranquil images gracefully illustrate the power of literature to cultivate human dignity.
• Oct. 9 A6 | Oct. 11 A6