Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival – Winners 2019

yama_call2019We present the winners of the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival which took place from October 10th – 17th, in Yamagata City, 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
Grand Prize – The Robert and Frances Flaherty Prize

Dead Souls

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

The Chinese Communist Party’s Anti-Rightist Campaign of the late 1950s. Eight hours of survivors’ testimony brings back the bitter cries of all those who were purged, starving to death in re-education camps in the desert. From Wang Bing, director of Tie Xi Qu: West of Tracks (YIDFF 2003) and Fengming, A Chinese Memoir (YIDFF 2007).





Mayor’s Prize

The Crosses

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.





Award of Excellence

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.




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)




Special Jury Prize

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)





New Asian Currents Award
Ogawa Shinsuke Prize


Erased, Ascent of the Invisible by Ghassan Halwani – Lebanon | 2018 – 76 minutes

The lingering image of a man kidnapped 35 years ago. The film hunts down and carves into the present the absence of countless existences that were vanished without a trace, written off as anonymous deaths after the civil war.





Awards of Excellence


Xalko by Sami Mermer, Hind Benchekroun – Canada | 2018 – 100 minutes

The men of the director’s hometown, a Kurdish village called Xalko, are off making a living in Europe. Within the daily lives of the women left back home, as they chat and their hands work busily, brim the joys and anger, grief and laughter of one large “family.”





Exodus by Bahman Kiarostami – Iran | 2018 – 90 minutes

Migrant workers from Afghanistan who entered the country illegally now wish to go back home, and they make their case at the government center near the border. The stories of people with different family and work circumstances are interwoven in this Exodus—from Iran—with a reggae lilt.



Citizens’ Prizes

Dead Souls

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





Directors Guild of Japan Award


Gracefully by Arash Eshaghi – Iran | 2019 – 64 minutes

An 80-year-old man, known in his youth for having danced at local ceremonies and celebrations dressed as a woman. Dancing publicly is banned after the revolution and he lives now as a farmer, taking care of cows. This film captures one man’s continued pursuit of happiness through dancing.


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