Yamagata Creative City of Film

“Film is the key to attract youth, to give light to a city’s cultural assets,
and to exchange creatively with other world’s cities.”

Yamagata City, the capital of Yamagata prefecture in northeastern Japan, will strive to become a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and use film as a key for sustainable development.

Film in Yamagata is a catalyst that brings people together, upholds tolerance and open dialogue, and inspires new thinking. Yamagata City launched the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in 1989. Now a certified NPO organization supported by the city, the film festival has continued to inspire audiences, filmmakers, and volunteers from all over the world for over a quarter of a century. Highly acclaimed by international film professionals who have become devoted fans, Yamagata has become a reference point for outstanding filmmaking and a place where a lot of new and talented filmmakers have found their start.

In 1992, the Tohoku University of Art and Design was founded in Yamagata City. Its graduates have gone on to play an active role in the moving image and film industry in companies in Yamagata prefecture and beyond. In addition, the Yamagata Film Commission was established to promote local locations for filmmaking and support the work of production teams. The Diversity Media and Movie On companies host the Yamagata International Movie Festival to support and encourage young filmmakers.

Citizens, industries, academic institutions, and government in Yamagata City upholds film as an important and unique local cultural asset, and have begun to stride forward with pride to become a Creative City of Film.

Please click HERE to view 2017 edition of Yamagata Creative City of Film

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Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival

The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF) is highly acclaimed as one of the top film festivals for documentary in the world.
Praised and trusted by world-renowned filmmakers, its quarter of a century history shows programming that upholds the diversity of film cultures and festivities that strive to become a place for meaningful exchange. The film festival, giving rise to international exchange and networking, is one of the centerpieces of Yamagata City as an international city of culture and arts.

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Yamagata Documentary Film Library

Since 1994, the Yamagata Documentary Film Library collects and preserves films submitted and screened at the YIDFF. The 14,500-plus archives of documentaries is used by researchers and enjoyed by audiences. The importance of such a rare collection is increasingly rising with the years – a world heritage-class of audiovisual record of contemporary world history. Moreover, a part of the archives is available for rental, video viewing on site, and screenings.

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〈Academic research using archives〉 Yamagata University scholars have been utilizing the archived films in the library as academic resources for writing and publishing papers and books. Further, film professionals and researchers from around Japan and beyond also visit the library to view the precious collection of films.

〈311 Documentary Film Archive〉 In 2014, an archive of documentaries and information about the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 was compiled in order to allow the next generations and the world to learn about the tragic disaster.

Yamagata Film Commission

The Yamagata Film Commission provides support to movies, TV programs, commercials, and filmmaking production in the region. Since 2012, it has expanded in scale to include 5 cities and 2 towns neighboring Yamagata City to better service and support filming needs. Now with an average of 60 visiting production teams and an increase in larger productions including feature films, this initiative has raised the Yamagata brand, contributed to economic returns and incentive for tourism, and added extra cultural value to the region.

In 10 years, the office has assisted around 480 teams coming to Yamagata City for filming.

  • Film: “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno/ The Legend Ends”
    Shooting location: Bunshokan and Chitosekan
  • Commercial: “SK-II Discovery”
    Shooting location: Yamadera
  • Film: “Mission Impossible: Samurai”
    Shooting location: Kajo Park
  • Film: “Ogawa no Hotori”
    Shooting Location: Mamigasaki River
  • Film: “March comes in like a lion”
    Shooting Location: Yamadera
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Tohoku University of Art and Design

The Tohoku University of Art and Design (TUAD) was established in 1992 as a four-year art university. While around 250 students are enrolled in its film program, alumni are active in the Japanese film industry, with many acclaimed at international film festivals. Since 2014, TUAD has hosted the “Yamagata Biennale” for contemporary art. It takes place in the central part of the city, transforming Yamagata into a Town of Art.

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Activities by Citizens

〈Screenings〉Yamagata citizens are actively organizing screenings to share the movie experience. “Kangaroo’s Pocket” is a community group that organizes film screenings to be enjoyed by children and parents together. “Films into the Woods of Nishi-Zao” is a screening event organized by citizens to provide the opportunity to enjoy films and to visit the beautiful mountains of Yamagata. In a cross-generational program, high school students use old films to entertain the elderly and trigger their memory. Taking 1950s newsreels, they visit nursing homes and provide their own voice-over narration.
〈Making Films〉 Citizen groups have produced documentaries spotlighting local creative industries and their history. In 5 years, 4 films completed by such production committee have been presented nationwide and internationally. The documentary film “Reviving Recipes” was produced in collaboration with the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy Tsuruoka. Featuring heritage crops and the importance of their succession today, the film introduced Yamagata’s culinary culture to audiences around the world.
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Cinema for Children

Cinema for Children is a film workshop for students from elementary school to senior high school ages. In collaboration with Yamagata City, YIDFF, and universities, the film workshops are regularly held throughout the year. Children’s eyes shine brightly as they encounter the joys of “watching” films, “making” films, and “expressing” in films that are not offered within the formal school curriculum.

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Volunteers have delivered the movie experience to survivors of Great East Japan Earthquake in 450 locations and 570 occasions since 2011. Over 160 screenings took place across Yamagata prefecture as well, in a project to support the relocated refugee communities of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Screenings were held in the following cities:

  • FukushimaFukushima City, Souma City, Minami Souma City, Date City, Iizaka Town, Miharu Town
  • MiyagiIshinomaki City
  • YamagataNanyo City, Yamagata City

among others.

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