I never anticipated how much my life was about to change when a friend asked me in 1993, “Hey, do you want to go to Yamagata together and see some films?”
At the time I had no knowledge of documentary, and if asked to name a “documentary film” I would only have been able to cite propaganda films I had seen in China that advertised the ideology of the state.
During my one week at Yamagata, I was seized by an irrepressible sense of excitement. It was as if I had lived my entire life in a mountain cave, and had followed the smallest trace of light until it led me to a strange, new world. I experienced this sense of amazement many times.
It was at Yamagata that I encountered Ogawa Shinsuke’s films and book Harvesting Film. I was drawn to the appeal of Ogawa’s world, how he would position his camera so as to record himself as he conversed with others. I was drawn to the buoyantly joyful sound of his voice.
I purchased my first 8mm video camera the following year. While translating Harvesting Film into Chinese, I began to take my own first steps on the path of documentary filmmaking.
All of twenty-two years have passed since then. In that time I have returned to Yamagata twice as a filmmaker with my own films in hand, first in 1997 and then again in 2007. This year’s festival finds me involved in the editing of my third feature-length film.
Every time I visit Yamagata I feel as if I am standing at my own point of departure. I expect to experience new surprises and encounter wonderful films again this October at Yamagata.
Born in Tianjin, China. After studying Japanese Literature in university, Feng Yan moved to Japan in 1988 and lived there for 13 years. She began making documentary films in 1994. Her first feature-length film Dreams of Changjian (1997) screened in the New Asian Currents program at YIDFF ’97. Bingai (2007) won the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize at YIDFF 2007. Feng provided the Chinese translation of Harvesting Film, a collection of talks by Ogawa Shinsuke on film. In so doing, she has contributed deeply to the introduction of the work of Ogawa Productions to the Chinese-speaking world. Feng teaches documentary production at the LXT Film School while continuing to make documentaries of her own.
A Day in Tianjin
CHINA / 2015 / Chinese / Color / Blu-ray / 50 min
Director: Feng Yan
Photography: Cui Ligang, Diao Dingcheng, Zhou Feng
Editing: Feng Yan, Diao Dingcheng, Yu Xiaochuan
Sound: Jin Yi
Music: Kai Kanji
Producer: Wan Ruoruo
This film weaves the story of a single day, with one of the largest port cities in China, Tianjin, as its setting, and the daily lives of five people as its focus. Huang Changqing lives a modest lifestyle, having worked as a railroad employee for thirty-two years. Wang Zhenghua studied violin making in the United States, and now has many clients overseas as well. Li Dan and Hai Chao, cabin attendants at an airline, are engaged to be married. Zhao Xu works at a TV station and performs comedy at night. The characters entrust their lives to the flow of time, flowing like a magnificent river. And then the next day arrives.