yamagata docu. film festival

Birgit Kellner kellner
Thu Oct 23 11:26:21 EDT 1997

Davis Darrel wrote:
> >         Comments on Yamagata Documentary Film Fest from a first-time visitor:
> >  I think the the post-screening Q and A sections are the most
> > interesting mainly because it really reflects certain parts of the film
> > culture in Japan.
> > For example,. the ba-chan (grandmother) that praised Xu Xiaoming's Homesick Eyes, the film about SE Asian guestworkers in Taiwan, as a common call for collective resistance against poverty among economically underprivileged sectors all around Asia. Her comment was so interesting because she did not use the concept of nation to contextualize imported cheap
> > labor but class and economic status instead.  This cuts across various nations in the region. It has therefore become a global situation
> > within and outside national/regional boundaries.  So much for the stereotypical Japanese fetishism of "uchi-soto" boundaries.

I definitely second the interest of Q&A-sessions after screenings at
film festivals. I've visited the Focus on Asia film festival in Fukuoka
twice; they have apparently built up a strong link with Iranian
filmmakers, and both times, there were a considerably number of Iranian
films with directors and actors/actresses available for Q&A-sessions.
Most questions dealt with either personal experiences of people in the
audience which the film had somehow brought back to recollection (and
which people then felt compelled to share with everybody else), or with
"Iranian culture". That held for pretty much all screenings of
non-Japanese films - people would usually ask very general questions
about the country, e.g. "I have noticed a Marlboro-packet lying around
in the nomad's tent. Do people in Mongolia like to smoke Marlboro?" to
the Mongolian director of a love-triangle-amongst-nomads-film. Or people
would praise qualities of life in those foreign countries which,
apparently and regrettably, life in Japan is lacking, such as simplicity
and humanity in Iran. 

What struck me as remarkable from all these sessions was (a) an
unquestioned readiness to accept films as 1:1 depictions of reality, and
the tendency to use whatever diverse artistic forms of filmic
expressions there were as direct sources of information about other
countries and cultures. As if one were to see a Frenche Nouvelle Vague
film and then ask the director if people in France really drove around
mostly in Citroen 2CVs! (b) the equally unquestioned tendency to first
compare the information derived from such films with one's own take of
Japan, and then invariably end up praising the "other" country's side.
Actually, the last part also held for the Japanese films which were
screened, in that they would usually be praised for being rare and
outstanding masterpieces amongst what is mostly trash, and that they
would also be seen as continuing a tradition of Japanese filmmaking and
therefore representing the golden craftsmanship and charmingness of
those glorious older times. 

To be sure, these were just a number of individual instances, and I'm
not sure what really to make of them; I ended up thinking that at least
in part they had to do with the festival's selection policy. But, if
nothing else, these are at least interesting anecdotes, and I would
appreciate hearing from others about such experiences at film festivals
in Japan. 

Birgit Kellner
Department of Indian Philosophy
Hiroshima University

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