International Competition

Oskar Alegria
Erika Balsom
Chen Chieh-Jen
Yang Yonghi
Zhang Lu

Notes: Abe Koji (AK), Hama Haruka (HH), Hata Ayumi (HA), Kato Hatsuyo (KH), Tanaka Shimpei (TS), Yoshida Miwa (YM), Yuki Hidetake (YH)

Weaving Memories in the Present

One humid summer day, on my way to buy things for dinner, a cigarette smell coming from an older man I happened to pass caused me to stop in my tracks. Considering my neighborhood has become completely smoke-free, I should have reacted with my usual natural revulsion, but somehow I found myself feeling close to this person in a way that left me momentarily perplexed. Then I recalled the sight of my late father lying in his hospital bed, and the green of the garden visible from the veranda at my parents’ home, after it was already someone else’s property. The smell of cigarettes had summoned these memories, a vision of things lost. This felt strange to me, because although my father had been a smoker in the distant past, he had quit later in life.

If pressed to articulate what characteristic links the films selected for this year’s International Competition, I would venture that each film confronts “memory” in its own way. The various voices we hear in The Bus Station reminisce about past loves, while in Anhell69, the memories that characters have of their frustrations with queer life and their dreams for the future are thrown into relief through the production of a feature film still in the making. A Night of Knowing Nothing deals with memories of both the caste system that tore apart a student’s relationship and how the student movement was suppressed by a group working in collusion with government authorities. Ignacio AgŁero confronts the memory of people whose history was buried by posing questions to cinema as a filmmaker (Notes for a Film), and in digging up memories of her aunt, a forgotten painter, Irene M. Borrego asks herself what it means to be an artist (The Visit and a Secret Garden). Crossing Voices weaves together the memories of Bouba Touré and his colleagues, who raised their voices in protest against the hard conditions faced by migrant workers in Paris and have continued to document the anti-colonialist resistance and independence movements within an agricultural cooperative they founded in their native Mali. Trinh T. Minh-ha combines sound with footage she shot thirty years earlier in China to interrogate individual memories and how they harmonize together in What About China?, and Abbas Fahdel uses a film—Tales of the Purple House—to distill the memory of the people of Lebanon, beset by strife and constrained by the pandemic.

Knit’s Island exposes the boundaries between the real world and memory among anonymous users of a game who have spent years in its fictional space, while The Island cycles through views of the time and space in which actors act, giving shape to multi-layered memory as a product of performance. And “hibi” AUG calls into question the viewer’s own memory through a disruptive montage of shots without nexus assembled according to rules set by the filmmaker that use the month of August as a view onto images.

Three Women portrays the steadfast lives of women Maksym Melnyk meets in a Ukrainian village with no local industry, and Eastern Front, which was filmed several years later, offers a vivid glimpse of the reality of war, one that will surely serve as a source of future memory for the Ukrainian people. The Unstable Object II documents the work process in several factories, committing visions of labor and questions about consumer society to film also in the service of future memory. Finally, in Self-Portrait: 47 KM 2020, Zhang Mengqi continues her yearslong project to collect and assemble memories with the people of a village, despite the onset of a pandemic, crystallizing the expressions that children show to the camera and the scenery of the four seasons.

As I reflected on the images that the smell of cigarettes called forth, I realized that the difficult memories I had of arguing with my father were now enveloped in peaceful feelings of remembrance. Perhaps the experience of watching a film involves the same kind of thing. To watch a film is to have a series of small revelations, each one weaving memories anew. In turning our attention to films, we lend an ear to the memories of others, examine our own memory, and become attuned to future memory. I would like to express my gratitude to the filmmakers, the audiences, and all the people who have worked hard to make this festival happen, and hope that the memories portrayed in each of the fifteen films in this program will present viewers with occasion to find memories of their own rewoven in the present.

Kato Hatsuyo
Program Coordinator