If “Yamagata” to me sounds like “Mecca for documentary filmmaking,” I owe this to Barbara Hammer’s wonderful film Devotion on Ogawa Productions. Ever since I saw that film, I see this festival like no other. On the occasion of my upcoming visit, I want to share these—ok—romantic sentiments, based on what I learned in Devotion, about a group of Japanese directors who dared to live a collective revolutionary dream of filmmaking.
In Yamagata I look forward to seeing the films selected for this program because of this festival's radical aversion to established TV formula and rules for documentaries. In my mind, Yamagata is the very place where documentaries made with an urge and radical obsession for intervention belong, films that expand and challenge all those rules on all levels—rules for filmmaking both on-screen and off-screen, rules both private and professional.
For a few days in October, I hope that a joint community of soul mates will gather in the cinemas and later on in bars, where the films seen will be discussed and praised, criticized and debated, with a conspiracy of understanding that documentaries are made for a life that is not a reality show. Maybe, I thought to myself, I shouldn’t go, just to make sure I keep the fantasies I projected on Yamagata fully intact. I am just too curious and too full of expectation.
Based in Berlin, Dorothee Wenner works as a freelance filmmaker, writer, and curator. Her documentaries include Peace Mission (2008), about the Nigerian film industry Nollywood, and Ladies Special (1999), about a women’s commuter train in Mumbai, India. Since 1990 she has been on the selection committee of the International Forum of New Cinema at the Berlin International Film Festival and the delegate for India and Sub-sahara Africa for the Berlin and Dubai film festivals. She was the director of Talent Campus 2006–2008. As curator she has worked with many exhibitions, film series, and live shows, often about India and Africa.
GERMANY / 2012 / English / Color / Blu-ray / 80 min
Director, Script: Dorothee Wenner
Photography: Bernd Meiners
Sound: Pascal Capitolin
Music: Philip Scheffner
Editing: Merle Kröger
Co-production: Goethe Institute, ZDF/ARTE, wave-line
Production Company, World Sales: pong
In Lagos, Nigeria, a car-parts dealer, a real estate developer, and a shoe manufacturer meet up with smart business consultants DramaConsult to plan a trip to Germany. Nigerians with their flair for words and drama and the risk-averse Germans looking for stability—can players from such different business cultures manage to become partners? A lab-like stage was provided for real-life business people to play out their lives, setting aside real problems like corruption and nepotism in Africa. The film presents the process of personal economic entrepreneurship as an adventure of cultural exchange and mutual understanding, possibly providing a lesson for Asia too, in this age of globalization.