Yamagata and Film
The Flowers of Yamagata Blossom
Most people in Yamagata are not interested in the fact that they host an international documentary film festival in their prefecture. This may be hard to believe for some of you who hold this catalog in your hands, but it is something that I have felt for many years. There are no figures or data to prove it, and I know that many locals are indeed involved in the festival, as staff or audience members. But I feel this way since I often hear people say that they have never been to it, they do not know where or when it is held, nor do they even have any interest in attending.
There seems to be no single reason for the lack of interest. Some people are too overwhelmed by daily life to find time, some are convinced that documentaries are difficult, while others are afraid of communicating with people from abroad. I was even surprised to hear some say that they couldn’t be bothered with “outsiders” kicking up such a big fuss and pretending they had anything to do with Yamagata. The one opinion these people shared was that the festival had nothing to do with them. It seemed necessary to find a way to communicate that Yamagata locals are also key players in the festival. It is with this idea that the Yamagata and Film program was born in 2007.
Initially, Yamagata and Film began with the screening of films and directors with some connection to Yamagata Prefecture, in addition to the digging out of films on 8mm and 16mm that had been collecting dust somewhere the prefecture. The idea was to make the program appealing to local residents based on nostalgia, or the knowledge that they were being provided with the opportunity to see something rare. However, now that ten years have passed, a broader and more layered line-up has naturally emerged. It is not that we on the programming side sought to change course, but in fact it is the result of a change (albeit a moderate one) in the consciousness of the viewers. That is, the citizens of Yamagata began to demand richer films, and a more profound look at Yamagata that went beyond mere nostalgia and exaltation of the prefecture. We are proud to declare that once again, we believe the program this year to be a diverse one in which this richness and profundity may be felt.
For the 30th anniversary of YIDFF, we will be screening A Movie Capital, a faithful document of the festival’s early struggles, along with A Movie Capital Again, which captured a turning point for the festival. Together, these two fascinating films ask anew why exactly the festival continues in Yamagata. Through “Living in Snow Country! What is Seccho?” a documentary about the snow damage research center that once existed in this prefecture, we hope to think about the relationships between snow and Yamagata, and between farming villages and art. The Mr. O program features a trilogy of films documenting the performances of the world-renowned butoh dancer, Ohno Kazuo. A record of his performance in Yamagata City in 2001 will also be shown for the first time. There will additionally be a screening of films from the vaults of the Prefectural Education Center, a display of materials that trace the relationship between Yamagata and movie theaters, a “Home Movie Day” that explores new possibilities in cinema through the private films of directors and guests of the film festival as well as a symposium around Yamagata’s acceptance into the UNESCO Creative Cities Network; all these explore the relationship of Yamagata to this film festival.
As mentioned earlier, the reason that the Yamagata and Film program has become so diverse is largely due to changes in awareness in the citizens of the prefecture. If so, it perhaps may now also be time to retract the opening of this essay, and replace it as follows: The citizens of this prefecture are now very interested in the film festival, and the seeds that were sowed are about to flower.
Let us capture the moment of their blossoming together.