Fireside Chat about the YIDFF, Japanese Documentary, and Hanzo

The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival was held online last fall due to the continuing pandemic. That was unfortunate, but as I had previously written about film during the COVID era (here), the pandemic had also opened up opportunities to watch Japanese film and other entertainment media remotely. The YIDFF has now jumped on the bandwagon and is running an online series of some of the best Japanese documentaries in the 30+ years since the festival began in 1989. The platform is DAFilms, which also managed the Flash Forward series, and it is offering the first week free (afterwards, I think you have to be a subscriber). Check it out here.

To go along with the series, the folks at the YIDFF have asked some involved in the festival to look back on those thirty years. Markus Nornes has written a series of illuminating pieces on the YIDFF Facebook page. The film directors Oda Kaori and Dwi Sujanti Nugraheni also recorded a conversation about the trials and tribulations of making indie docs in Asia, which is now available on the YIDFF YouTube channel (here). 

The YIDFF also asked my wife Ono Seiko and me to make a video. Seiko began working at the YIDFF in 1990 and was long the coordinator of the International Competition, and later the programmer for several important retrospectives for Joris Ivens, Chris Marker, Robert Kramer, and Newsreel. I was involved in the YIDFF from 1993 and was a coordinator of New Asian Currents in 1995, molding that competition into what it is today with Fujioka Asako. 

I'm usually embarrassed to introduce videos I appear in, but we put a good bit of effort into it, so I thought I would mention it. Seiko and I were asked to do a video about our memories of the Yamagata Film Festival and the films showing in the series. It was our first time doing such a video—and Seiko's first doing something like this in English—so not everything went well. We didn't quite do the camera right, and repeatedly forgot to mention this or that. But we managed to get it done, though it is less a serious look at the festival, than a casual, personal, and somewhat humorous chat about what we experienced. At times it looks somewhat like fufu manzai (husband and wife comedy). We were both a bit stiff, but I think the personal touch has its own charm. So watch it with a grain of salt!

The highlight of course is our cat Hanzo, who appears at the end!

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