Yamagata Rough Cut!

Grant: The Japan Foundation Asia Center
Grant Program for Promotion of Cultural Collaboration

This program provides an opportunity for people who have come to the festival from around the world to watch, listen, feel and discuss a range of unfinished films. By watching these little, coarsely carved out fragments of the world—these “rough cuts”—filmmakers, audiences, critics, researchers and people from every walk of life can go beyond the conventions of genre and come together to explore new relationships between the moving image and society. In addition, this year sees the start of the first Rough Cut call for entries from across Asia, while local high school and university students have also been invited to join in the discussions.

Reinventing How We Watch Films

A “rough cut” refers to a film or video work in an unfinished state of editing. In most cases, rough cuts are screened in a closed environment where experts provide constructive feedback and advice to the filmmakers, enabling them to complete a better work. In the Yamagata Rough Cut! program, we aim to set aside the idea of the film as a self-contained “work,” and explore a way of getting people to engage in conversation no matter what their role in society or country of origin, and without regard for genre.

This year marks the third time that this program has been held, and it has always aimed to value discussion, treating it as equally important to—if not more important than—viewing the films. There is only public discussion, rather than talks given by directors or panelists. The director of the work is seated alongside the rest of the audience. Watching a rough cut is not just about viewing bits and pieces from an unfinished film, it is also having the opportunity to view something without focusing on its level of perfection. For example some remarks heard last time included, “Anything edited and publicly screened, even if it is a rough cut, is always a completed work in the eyes of the audience,” and “Every film is a rough cut in the eyes of the people who made it.”

Embracing as reality the footage before your eyes, you might start to slowly form your reaction into words. Even if not, just hearing the reactions of others in the audience and continuing on your train of thought, your viewing of the film may go from being a private experience into something more—a step towards the people around you.

We wanted to create a space in the film festival where people not only watch films and talk about them, but see through something that begins here, and gain something useful to take back to their daily lives.

New this year, we also accepted rough cut submissions from other parts of Asia. There are a total of four rough cuts in this year’s program—two from Japan and two from other countries in Asia. They will be screened followed by discussions with simultaneous interpretation. One of the discussions is designed to be mainly attended by high school and university students who volunteer locally. Please join us in a program where the audience engages in a free and diverse exchange of observations and thoughts.

Sakai Ko, Watanabe Kazutaka
Program Coordinators