10am on a Monday morning and the queue snakes round the cinema. We blink. Wonder if, maybe the people are waiting to see another film. But nope. Everyone troops into our cinema. They fill up the seats, spill onto the passageway, crouch by the exits and settle down to watch Aki Ra’s Boys.

The people of Yamagata sure do love their docos. And they sure do know how to organize a film festival. It is, hands down, the best we’ve ever attended. Small, intimate, filmmaker-focused. We had a blast – the wonderful vibe, the late night discussions, the housewives who stopped us on the street to tell us how much they enjoyed our work, the early morning boozing, the karaoke sessions. Oh, the karaoke sessions. Kudos to the organizers for taking our bad singing in stride. And for allowing us one last song when, really, they should have thrown everyone out.

Amid all that, we watched some truly amazing films, sold ours, discovered the best soba restaurant in the world, made a few new friends, reconnected with old ones and left, inspired.