Author of Films that Won’t Give Up: Life at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival
An Interview with Yamanouchi Etsuko

Towards a World Where One Can Freely Be Oneself

Q: You have interpreted at every YIDFF since its inception, and on Sept. 27th this year, you published a book that is the first of its kind for this film festival. Can you tell me how you came to writing this book and what you most struggled with?

YE: It was director Sai Yoichi who first encouraged me to write the book. We met at the YIDFF. He might have seen some of my articles on the YIDFF as well as on minority issues that I wrote for the magazine Shukan Kinyobi.

I had a big internal debate about writing the book. The YIDFF has such a long history, both with great depth and width, that I thought it would be presumptuous of me to write about it when I could only offer my thoughts on the films and the directors I interpreted for. But at one point, Ms. Fujioka Asako, the director of the YIDFF Tokyo Office, said that there is no one who knows the entire YIDFF story to heart. And hearing that, I thought it was true that it wasn’t just me.

I also felt that after living in Canada for over 25 years, I had to write what amounts to chapter 4 in my book, which deals with indigenous issues. This is what really prompted me to start the project.

Q: What makes you so interested in minority issues?

YE: Because I’ve been a member of a minority group many times. Especially since moving to Canada, I felt constantly pressured by this expectation that I had to speak and write perfectly in English, even though it isn’t my mother tongue. I’m also a visible minority member there. Being Asian, I suffered from racial slurs and attacks. And after experiencing such sorrow, I became more prone to feeling empathy towards those in minority groups. Once you become the target of racism, you can imagine how it must be for those who are discriminated against for other reasons. That made me want to give my support to them in any way I could.

Q: You have interpreted at seven international film festivals. Amongst them, why have you been involved with the YIDFF for so long?

YE: It’s because of the incredible people I meet here. Probably half of all the interesting people I’ve met in my life are connected to the YIDFF in some capacity—many of whom I see outside the festival.

The better world that the YIDFF seems to be striving for is in many ways the world I would also like to help create. It’s a shared desire: to nurture a world in which one can live true to oneself, without having to conform to any prescribed norms.

Q: Please tell me about some of the publication events you’re planning.

YE: At the YIDFF, I’ll have an onstage dialogue with director Kobayashi Shigeru at the event entitled “A Quarter of a Century at the YIDFF: a discussion by two participants who’ve been to every festival.” It will take place at Freespace, on the second floor of Hachimonjiya Bookstore across the street from Az.

In Tokyo, I’m scheduled to have another discussion with director Sai Youichi at the Sky Hall of Bunkyo Civic Center, from 18:30 on Oct. 28th. There will also be a similar event in November at Uplink in Shibuya, where the audience can enjoy Sake from Yamagata and imoni, a beloved Yamagata dish, while listening to a report on the YIDFF. As of now these three events are scheduled, but there may be others too.

(Compiled by Uno Yukiko)

Interviewers: Uno Yukiko, Muroya Toyoko / Translator: Tayu Yamanouchi Hayward
Photography: Muroya Toyoko / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2013-09-27 in Tokyo