In a life full of stories, something I appreciate more than anything is a great ending. Not necessarily in a happy-go-lucky way, but I find it very gratifying when events occur as an arch, where the end is clear and correlates beautifully with the start. However, like in films or literature, endings come in various forms. Some endings satisfy us by wrapping everything definitively, like a clear bookend to a chapter or the perfect last scene before the credits roll. However, poetic endings are a specific kind of ending that is extra gratifying for me. This type of ending comes when the conclusion of a story isn’t explicitly placed yet is deeply poetic in how they relate to everything that comes before—some kind of satisfying question or a symbolic resolution. Crazily, a great real-world example of a poetic ending came recently, just weeks before writing.
As part of the festival writer team in Minikino, we met many incredible faces worldwide. We met filmmakers, film programmers, film writers, and even film academics with diverse voices, backgrounds, and varying time zones. Every Thursday night for six weeks, we converse freely about cinema and its ecosystem with professionals who intrinsically understand it—creating an incredibly resourceful and valuable learning space, especially for young people who deeply admire cinema.
After six weeks of weekly meetings, we finally arrived at the final one. The last and seventh speaker for us to converse with was Asako Fujioka, a board member of the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival and head of the Documentary Dream Center in Tokyo, Japan. Before the scheduled meeting, her name was already somewhat familiar to me. Her work on creating the Yamagata Documentary Dojo, an incubation retreat focusing on nurturing documentary filmmakers, was already an inspiring feat I was familiar with. However, even though I knew she was last in a line of guest speakers, something I didn’t expect was this very meeting would ultimately act as a beautiful finale for the past few months of this internship.
To fully appreciate a great ending, I think you must first understand the beginning and the middle. Therefore, let me pour out a bit of a backstory on how the festival writer internship works. This year, the small team of festival writers consists of four people. Besides myself, we got Andika, a film student in Yogyakarta; Vira, a literature student from Tangerang; and Shara, a film student living in Bali. Even before the Internship, we four have shown great interest in writing, each with our styles and sensibilities. Although I should only speak for myself, I feel like we four could say that we were basically novices in this field before the start of the internship. However, as we encountered amazing people in this industry during the internship, we gained a stronger appreciation for this space.
I personally came from a more scholarly side of film writing. I’m more accustomed to writing film analyses, academic papers, and critical essays than creative articles. So shifting from a more creative and journalistic style to film writing was a pretty big step for me. I remembered writing the first draft for my first article for Minikino and ended up doing it in all the wrong ways. I described the movie in such meticulous detail that I ended up leeching the excitement out of the film. From that novice mistake, the editors of Minikino helped guide me to the right path, and I was ultimately able to write the article’s final draft. I learned that writing about film is writing about the experience itself. The experience of being transported into another place and point of view. All through the power of cinema and the art of short films. These types of learning experiences not only made me a better writer but also allowed me to see what it truly means to appreciate cinema.
Because a big misconception about cinema is that a film finishes being relevant after it is screened, and the second it goes off the theaters or the festival circuit, another film comes and dethrones its place in the zeitgeist. The truth is cinema is way bigger than just filmmakers making films. Especially in the world of short films, what kept it alive and relevant goes past the world of production, box-office numbers, or the number of laurels a film has on its poster. What kept cinema alive, specifically short films, is the people who go out of their way to dedicate their time, livelihood, and energy to keep it alive. I’m talking about the people who chose to nurture and help grow other people’s voices in the industry rather than trying to fit themselves into the already crowded scene. It is a thankless job, and from what I learned from meeting these people throughout the internship, it is something you could only do if you truly and deeply love cinema for what it is.
During these few months of meeting incredible people worldwide, I was highly inspired by their work. But the thing is, I got inspired by them in almost entirely separate ways. Each speaker is complex, rich with their stories, and distinct in their voice, so I am in awe at their brilliance individually. So this is where Asako Fujioka comes back into the equation. During our conversation, Asako talked about all the incredible work she’s done for filmmakers worldwide. Primarily through Yamagata Documentary Dojo, where she created a haven for filmmakers around the world to be entirely creative and develop their films. This got me wondering, why do we do what we do? As I said before, it is a thankless job and, quite frankly, isn’t very resourceful financially, but then why? Why does Asako get out of her way to nurture filmmakers through her program? Why does Minikino create a festival writers program for young writers? Why do I, Andika, Shara, and Vira dedicate our time and energy to writing articles about cinema?
So I posed the question to her: why does she do what she does? And her simple response eventually created this full-circle moment within me that felt like a poetic conclusion to the previous few months of being a festival writer in Minikino. “I love cinema and believe in its power.” When I heard those simple words, my thoughts returned to the internship’s beginning. I discovered that a similar thread has been linking everyone I met during my internship all along. The wonderful people here at Minikino, the outstanding guest speakers, and my talented colleagues of festival writers are exactly what Asako described: individuals who love and believe in cinema. The inspiration I received from the other guest speakers suddenly didn’t feel separate; it all felt like a fulfilling arch leading me to this moment in time. Just from that response, I understood I had discovered my tribe, a bunch of incredible people who are insane enough to accomplish what we do.