Lim Kah Wai

[Juror’s Statement]

It’s just like it was yesterday. I was a senior in college. I had already secured a job for after graduation and done the bulk of the experiments I needed to write my thesis. One Saturday night, heading for no place in particular, I ended up wandering into a movie theater in Umeda and decided to stay for an all night show. They were showcasing an unfamiliar director of “documentary films” which were also unfamiliar to me. Marvelously, I became more and more drawn in as I watched, and the three works I saw that night left me with an impact more profound than anything I had ever experienced. The films were The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 (1974), and Goodbye CP (1972). The director was Hara Kazuo.

Later, the same theater was showing films by director Ogawa Shinsuke, and I watched almost all of them, also at all night shows. I was overtaken by a strong desire to watch more and know more about documentary films. By chance I got to learn about the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival and I swore deep down that one day I would attend.

I got a job at a telecommunications company after graduation. In the fall of 2001 I took a week off from work and realized my longtime dream of going to YIDFF. Now I was able to gain the acquaintance of filmmakers and film lovers who came to the festival from every place imaginable. What happened in Yamagata was another world, an experience that was extravagant and invaluable for an office worker like myself. Three years later I would quit my job to start making films but looking back I really think that if I had not gone to Yamagata that year my life would probably have followed a completely different trajectory.

I have made ten feature films, all of them fiction. Actually, I did make one documentary short at school, before I ever made a feature. But making it led me to realize I had no talent as a documentary filmmaker and I never tried it again. Now I’ve been given the vital task of judging the best documentary films from across Asia at YIDFF, the festival that has so influenced my life. I feel very honored but at the same time worry if I am truly qualified for the job. My doubts remain, but as long as I have been graciously granted a role of such responsibility, I will do everything in my power to fulfill my role as juror.

Lim Kah Wai

Born in Malaysia on July 28, 1973. After graduating from Osaka University’s Department of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering Science, he worked in the telecommunications industry and completed the director’s course at the Beijing Film Academy. He made his feature debut, After All These Years (2010), independently, in Beijing. His work is not limited by nationality or national border, and places he has made films include Osaka, China, Hong Kong, various other countries throughout Asia, and Eastern Europe. He received the Nippon Visions Jury Award at Germany’s Nippon Connection for Your Lovely Smile (2022). This Magic Moment and Everything, Everywhere—his two latest films—are scheduled to be released in Japanese theaters in November of this year and February of next year, respectively.

Your Lovely Smile

(Anata no hohoemi)

JAPAN / 2022 / Japanese / Color / DCP / 103 min

- Director, Script, Editing: Lim Kah Wai
Photography: Furuya Koichi
Sound: Nakagawa Kyuya, Matsuno Izumi
Sound Design: Matsuno Izumi
Music: Watanabe Yuji
Cast: Watanabe Hirobumi, Hirayama Hikaru, Shogen, Tanaka Hironobu
Distribution: Cinema Drifters

Multiple award-winning film director Watanabe Hirobumi should have just kept releasing one film after the next. In reality, film companies never called him and when one dubious offer finally came his way, he couldn’t even manage to write the script. But the Great Watanabe would not be stopped. He decided to travel to art cinemas all over Japan, as if this was his destiny. This is a road movie told with humor and fantasy, set in quaint art cinemas, revealing the inside story of how independent film productions are brought to theaters.