Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival – International Competition 2019

yama_call2019We present the list of films that will compete at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival which will take place from October 10th – 17th, 2019 in Yamagata, Japan.

About the festival:
“Located in a verdant, rolling valley far north of Tokyo, Yamagata City is the site for Asia’s first international documentary film festival. The first Film Festival (in 1989) was an event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Yamagata City, the sponsor of the festival at the time, and has been held biennially ever since in Yamagata’s best season, October.

Until recently, the week-long YIDFF was one of the few film festivals in Asia devoted exclusively to the documentary form. Its scope, however, reaches beyond simply screening recent, ground-breaking work in the International Competition. New Asian Currents, the competition program introducing emerging filmmakers from across Asia, has over the years become one of the Festival’s vibrant centers of attention as a meeting place of raw youthful energy. By featuring special events and programs shedding light on the history and diversity of filmmaking, the YIDFF is working hard to create a new forum for the production of alternative, independent, non-fiction film and the discussion of documentary as a form of expression.” – YIDFF Website

International Competition

Absence by Ekta Mittal – India | 2018 – 80 minutes

The film is about many young people in rural India who left to cities to earn money but lost contact and their families who are waiting for them. As it is shown in the original title of the film, Birha, the film delivers the Indian genre poem, which captures painful partings, in a filmic language. Young people in the movie are gone missing, and so is a clear narrative. The movie portrays people’s absence rather than telling their stories. It expresses with poetic sentiment different hearts: of those who are waiting, of those who are leaving, of those who must let go, of those who are not seen but present in the movie. The second half of the film is shown from the perspective of dead and missing, like in Borges’s novels. The film filled with ghost’s view captures air, things, wind and light, and even the subtlest movement. It is delicate and dreamy. (Lee Seung-min)



Cachada – The Opportunity by Marlén Viñayo
El Salvador | 2019 – 81 minutes

Five Salvadoran women -poor, single mothers, street vendors- have decided to embark on an unlikely dream: they want to become theater actresses.

After forming their own company, they accept the challenge of putting on a play through which they’ll bring their cruel life stories to the stage. What began as an experiment has turned into the only opportunity to transform their lives, but will they be able to face their past and get over their fears, traumas and dark secrets?

Filmed over a year and a half, this observational documentary is witness to the process of creating their play, through which they’ll discover themselves as victims and victimizers in a cycle of multigenerational violence. (SXSW Website)



Las Cruses

The Crosses by Teresa Arredondo, Carlos Vásquez Méndez
Chile | 2018 – 80 minutes

In September 1973, only a few days after the military Coup d’Etat in Chile, the police places 19 trade unionists, employees of the same paper factory (CMPC), under arrest and takes them to the station in the small town of Laja. Five days go by without any news from the prisoners – except that they’ve been transferred to a city where no-one can find them. By the end of a six-year inquiry, their corpses are found in a nearby cemetery. No explanation is given. We will have to wait 40 years for the policemen involved to decide to confess the massacre.



Dead Souls

Dead Souls by Wang Bing – France, Switzerland | 2018 – 495 minutes

A dozen aging survivors are interviewed from Jiabiangou, a complex of three work camps in Northwest China where supposed rightists were sent for re-education in the 1950s and 1960s under Mao Zedong. (IMDb)



Did you wonder

Did you wonder who fired the gun? By Travis Wilkerson
USA | 2017 – 90 minutes

“In 1946, my great-grandfather murdered a black man named Bill Spann and got away with it.” So begins Travis Wilkerson’s critically acclaimed documentary, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, which takes us on a journey through the American South to uncover the truth behind a horrific incident and the societal mores that allowed it to happen. Acting as narrator and guide, Wilkerson spins a strange, frightening tale, incorporating scenes from To Kill a Mockingbird, the music of Janelle Monáe and Phil Ochs, and the story of Rosa Parks’ investigation into the Recy Taylor case, as well as his own family history, for a gripping investigation into our collective past and its echoes into the present day. (Rottentomatoes)



In Our Paradise

In Our Paradise by Claudia Marschal
France | 2019 – 76 minutes

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Indira dreams of elsewhere. In France, Mehdina strives to find her place. Whilst the adults seem to be fighting windmills, the kids grow up in a world of their own with ten-year-old Hasan blissfully wandering on the path of Armstrong and travelling into space. (IMDb)



Living the Light

Living the Light – Robby Müller by Clairde Pijman
The Netherlands | 2018 – 86 minutes

DoP Robby Müller has inspired generations with his ground-breaking camerawork. Director Claire Pijman had access to his personal archive to create an extraordinary film essay that intertwines archival material with excerpts of his oeuvre. (IMDB)



Memento Stella

Memento Stella by Makino Takashi
Japan, Hong Kong | 2018 – 60 mintues

Makino Takashi takes us to a place where different rules apply. He overwhelms us with his universe, which is built up of countless images, figurative and non-figurative, accompanied by an equally sophisticated soundtrack. At times very abstract and distant, at others almost palpable and narrative. We naturally seek recognition in the infinite layering of the images, and in so doing compose our own story, based on what we ourselves know of the world, using our personal references to help us. In this way, a work arises unique to every viewer, which continues to reverberate long after we leave the cinema. (IFFR Website)



Midnight Traveler

Midnight Traveler by Hassan Fazili
USA, Qatar, Canada, UK | 2019 – 87 minutes

When the Taliban puts a bounty on Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s head, he is forced to flee with his wife and two young daughters. Capturing their uncertain journey, Fazili shows firsthand the dangers facing refugees seeking asylum and the love shared between a family on the run.



Monrovia Indiana

Monrovia, Indiana by Frederick Wiseman
USA | 2018 – 143 minutes

Following the 2016 presidential election, Frederick Wiseman’s documentary dissects small-town America to understand how its values impact and influence the political landscape of the nation. (IMDb)




Reason by Anand Patwardhan
India | 2018 – 240 minutes

400 years after the Enlightenment, Faith retains a global upper hand over Reason. In India, the world’s largest democracy, murder and mind control are dismantling secular democracy in a country that once aspired not just to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity but to lead the post-war world out of mindless violence. And yet the battle for Reason is not lost. Even as Brahminism (a priest ordained caste hierarchy that withheld knowledge from working castes) drapes itself in the national flag and sends out hit squads, resistance has not ended. For every rationalist gunned more rise to be counted.




Self-Portrait: Sphinx in 47 M by Zhang Mengqi
China | 2019 – 110 minutes

The seventh film in Zhang Mengqi’s extraordinary survey of life in 47km, a rural village in Hubei Province, China named after its distance from the nearest city, Suizhou, Self-Portrait: Sphinx In 47Km explores the terrible legacy of the ‘Great Leap Forward’ through the contrasting perspectives of two generations of women. An elderly woman tells the harrowing story of her son’s death; whilst a teenager paints murals imagining a brighter future. This split structure connects the memories of a disappearing generation to the hopes of a new one, finding space for political and personal reflection in a country experiencing great change.




Transnistra by Anna Eborn
Sweden, Denmark, Belgium | 2019 – 93 minutes

Atmospherically shot on 16mm film, Transnistra is an intimate and vital account of love and friendship in a complex, contradictory world. Award-winning director Anna Eborn (Pine Ridge) intimately follows a group of young people as they move from a sweltering, carefree summer through an unforgiving winter in the self-proclaimed state of Transnistria, where the national flag still holds the hammer and sickle. (Momento Film)



Your Turn

Your Turn by Eliza Capai – Brazil | 2019 – 93 minutes

‘Fuck. What will the future be like? What will the struggle be like? Will you have anxiety attacks, just like I had? Will you be free to be yourself? Will girls be respected? Will textbooks mention black people? Will you be oppressed for fighting back?’

Thousands of protestors are loudly chanting subversive slogans. The police react aggressively with teargas and truncheons. The experiences, passions and fears of these Brazilian teenagers are immediate, relevant and all-pervading. In 2015, they began occupying schools throughout the country, demanding education for all. Shot in the midst, using the activists’ own images, this film’s form perfectly matches the explosive expression of radical, democratic activism. The young people reflect upon what happened at past revolts and address the present situation. In the shadow of a newly-elected extreme right-wing President, Espero tua (re)volta gives voice to the movement’s multiple perspectives and asks the question: who writes history and how should it be recorded? (Berlinale 2019)




Yukiko by Young Sun Noh – France | 2018 – 70 minutes

“Can you mourn for a person of whom you have no memory?” This is the question that comes up in this calm kaleidoscope of intimate impressions and associations that connect three women: director Young Sun Noh, her mother, who was born and still lives in Korea, and her Japanese grandmother, who traveled to Seoul during the Japanese occupation of Korea to join her Korean lover. Shortly after the birth of her daughter, she returned alone to Tokyo. Hardly anything else is known about her.

Noh’s mother, who was still a young child when the Korean War broke out, also has no memory of her. Call her “Yukiko,” she once suggested. Over images of everyday landscapes, houses, a memorial and a home for the elderly, Noh muses about the old love story, and about daughters growing up far away from their mothers—she left home to study in France. A meeting on the island of Okinawa widens her perspective, and the universal tragedy of history gradually emerges in this contemplative film. (IDFA Website)


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  1. Pingback: In Our Paradise

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