New Asian Currents


Lim Kah Wai
Tan Kai Syng

Notes: Ishikawa Taichi (IT), Mabuchi Ai (MA), Nakai Yoko (NKY), Narita Yuta (NRY), Oki Masaharu (OM), Suzuki Ayako (SA), Wakai Makiko (WM)

I see you.

To filmmakers who sent their films to Yamagata, to colleagues who have worked toward this film festival together, some with their spirit, and some with their physical and mental strength; to all who came all the way to Yamagata—filmmakers, producers, crew, those who appear in the films, and the dear audience. To all who have made it possible for the film festival to exist as it is.

Everyone has a world of their own, in which they look at things through their own lens and have thoughts that go on only in their head. The entirety of “I”—the world of isolation and infinite possibility—is nearly impossible to share with others, but a film can show a glimpse of “your” world. I cannot be completely inside your head, your reality, but to me documentary film and in turn a film festival are where others are welcomed into the world of “you.” Even if that world is hard and painful, filled with happiness and laughter, or even misery, the door never closes. It is up to me to go through the door into that world, whether I choose to take that single step or not.

I’m thinking about the late Taiwanese director Mickey Chen who left us too early, and his profile in the 1999 YIDFF catalog when he screened his film Boys for Beauty (which can be read in full on YIDFF website, please have a look if you’re interested!). He’s very open about himself in his bio, pouring his heart out with humour. In a similar way his film characters were open to him, and to the audience through his film.

As for me, I am not good at being open about myself. It’s very silly how I often stumble over which part of me and to what extent I should share with whom, or what I’m even being expected to share. And so I usually end up not sharing much. I can say I was born in Tokyo, but before I entered elementary school, my family and I lived in Taiwan for a year, and that experience is etched on my memory as a landscape that shaped my formative years. My everyday life where Taiwanese was so much more familiar than Japanese that I even talked in Taiwanese with my sister, ended when I transferred to an elementary school in Tochigi as a complete outsider. Only a year and a half later, we would move to the US, and I remember feeling that it was a bit absurd that I became popular in class just for that brief moment. I transferred into local elementary school in the US not knowing a word of English or anything really about the place, but in two years’ time, my everyday life consisted of English more than Japanese. Then, I spent my last two years of elementary school back in Tochigi, but in a different school, that made me empathize with the animals in the zoo.

I do have a strong sense of wanting to blend in with others and be accepted in a group, which comes from not being able to fit in, or from the fear of standing out—and I feel it is a big part of my identity. There is that urge to keep seeking “somewhere” to belong even when you know deep down that it’s not possible to belong anywhere. The true nature of this “somewhere” lurking at the corner of a person’s identity is known to everyone, even to people who have never been transfer students. It’s only in the process of growing up that I was able to realize that this and solitude are two sides of the same coin.

Even with no means to connect with others, in the midst of hardship that is out of your control, there are always emotions that you want to share with someone, be they joy or sorrow, helplessness, rage or despair. When there is a filmmaker, the camera and the will to make a film, someone’s ordinary landscape and time—shaped by their formative experiences and the childhood landscape that continues to live in their heart—become a documentary film.

To those who cannot live as who they are, to those who have to hide their voices and identity, to all of the ordinary citizens who are now struggling against and standing up against power, to all the artists deprived of the act of expression, to all the documentary filmmakers who have shared their world—candidly or obliquely or hesitantly, using their real names or anonymously: we see you. I will find you no matter where you are, and etch you on my eyes and heart. A documentary film is proof of that—of the existence of the filmmaker and their world.

To filmmakers who left us this year, Ho Choon Hiong (Innocent, YIDFF 2005), Lee Kang-hyun (The Description of Bankruptcy, YIDFF 2007). And, to Takahashi Takuya. Until we see each other again.

Wakai Makiko
Program Coordinator