The International Competition has been held since the first Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in 1989, with fifteen works being screened each time. This program has always been one that looks at the changing times, and the total number of works screened will reach 150 this year. The history of this Competition is the history of the YIDFF itself.
In the lead-up to the 2007 Festival, a record 969 films were submitted between September 2006 and April of this year. In the first festival, this number was 221. This quadrupling of entries has been both astonishing and overwhelming for those fielding them, and extra work for the Preselection Committee assigned the enviable chore of watching so many films.
This increase is due to the fact that, while in our early years only works on film were accepted, in response to the increase of video works resulting from the growing prevalence of portable video cameras, the Competition was opened up to video for 2001. Eighty percent of the entries for 2007 were on video.
Of the fifteen works in this edition, nine are on video. The trend is toward films in which, in the process of exploring one’s own roots, one discovers personal histories, histories of countries, and bonds with families. These works do not stoop to self-indulgent sensationalism, but rather explore a vast, multi-layered world from an individual perspective.
This year’s program is packed with unprecedented variety, and includes works from directors who have screened previously at Yamagata, works from countries whose films have not been shown before, and works that attracted attention at other film festivals.
This year’s panel of judges is comprised of five people with a connection to the Festival who know Yamagata well: Hasumi Shigehiko, who has participated since the beginning of the Festival; Pedro Costa, whose work was shown in the Competition in 2001; Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who made his international debut in New Asian Currents in 1999 and participated in the Competition in 2001; Alanis Obomsawin, whose work was shown in 1993’s “Indigenous Peoples’ Film & Video Festival”; and Kidlat Tahimik, without reference to whom no account of the early YIDFFs would be complete.
The panel will decide the winners of the four prizes, including the Robert and Frances Flaherty Prize (the Grand Prize).
I would like to take this opportunity to also express my thanks to the many filmmakers, staff, and volunteers who assisted in putting on this program. I would also like to thank the audiences for coming along. As we celebrate this milestone tenth film festival in 2007, along with everyone who has special memories of the Festival, I look forward to even greater success from the YIDFF in the future.