New Asian Currents
A Certain Departure
The role of a person in our lives sometimes registers first, not when they are around us as usual, but when we lose them to some place distant and we know that we will never be able to meet them again. I understand that now.
And it made me realize that watching documentaries evokes a similar feeling.
Each of the entries in the New Asian Currents program illuminates the lives and roles of certain people. There is the world of the filmmaker who illuminates them, and external to the images of the film, there is a world contiguous with that one. I have encountered the presence of these great many people whom I do not or cannot know directly, through the makers of documentaries with whom I (in most cases) similarly have no personal acquaintance, and I feel both joy and sadness along with them. This kind of experience is something that I usually take for granted.
In images where time flows differently from my own world as a viewer, the undeniable figure of that person comes to exist in near eternity. I can encounter them through images. I even become convinced that they have been waiting there for the moment of this encounter. In the space of time I am watching a film, I believe that I have a relationship with the people and the world portrayed, so much so that when it ends I sometimes even feel guilty for having been selfish enough to think so. Then, returning to a reality over which I, as an individual, (feel like) I have no control, I fumble.
But then something registers. That person’s near eternal existence, and my encounters with them, are by no means to be taken for granted. Rather, they are miraculous. Just as films open up worlds beyond my imagining, welcoming me into them. Do I have any choice but to accept the invitation? I have no excuse for fumbling.
I miss everyone deeply—the filmmakers whom I am able only to meet online, the people whom I am able only to meet in the films themselves, as well as the people whom I am unable to meet in any form. If you are reading this, I would love for you to appear in my dreams. I would like to shout out loud to those I cannot even meet through the films, that there is someone here who wants to meet you. Someone, somewhere is thinking of you.
I used this space on the occasion of YIDFF 2017 to talk about my father who was coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s. I described him to readers among whom there was probably no one who knew him. I would therefore like to commemorate here, in writing, of his departure. And then, in the same way, to commemorate the departure of two friends, as well as those of people with whom I have no acquaintance: to commemorate all the many lives and deaths to which these people are connected. To recognize the simple facts, the traces of someone who existed in this world and then departed. I would like these people to remain present not only in the memories of their families, but also to linger somewhere quietly and with dignity, in films and elsewhere. Even on a single page of this catalog. To be held in the heart of even a single person.
A time comes when a person ceases to exist in front of you in the places where you had known them. People vanish from your lives, right before your eyes. I live each day with one and then the next—with their existence and their memory.
Of course, film festivals cannot do much more besides showing films—that is what we do. Whether that turns into something “miraculous” or not is left to each and everyone who gathers there. And this year we are unable to be witnesses to those numerous moments, and what we have always taken for granted has become impossible. But these films do indisputably exist, as do the people in their worlds, worlds that are like parts of the filmmakers themselves. Perhaps this fact will imprint itself on the place where the festival will exist.
To the people I met through this year’s festival, to those whom I will be deprived of the opportunity to meet, and to those I will meet in what lies ahead . . .