Hajao Mijazaki animation coming to Bio Oko

Crowdfunding helped pay for the festival of Japanese animation

Fans of Japanese animation have something too look forward to. Seven films by Hajao Mijazaki will be at Bio Oko from Jan. 18 to 27, and most screenings will be English friendly. The films will also play in Brno from Jan. 26 to 29.

Hayao Miyazaki began his career in animation in 1963, working on popular projects for a number of studios. Now in his 70s, he retired from animation in 2014. Worldwide, his films together have grossed almost $1 billion.

In 1984 directed Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, based on a manga comic book that he wrote. A year later he co-founded Studio Ghibli, based on the success of that film. The studio would achieve worldwide fame, and while a handful have had distribution to Czech cinemas before, most have only been on DVD and not on the big cinema screen where they belong. Aside from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), the festival includes Princess Mononoke (1997), Howl's Moving Castle (2004), Spirited Away (2001), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Castle in the Sky (1986), and My Neighbor Totoro (1988).

All of the films will be in Japanese with English and Czech subtitles, except Spirited Away which will have both Czech-dubbed and Czech-subtitled screenings. There will be no screenings in English or with English subtitles, as this is the one film previously released in the Czech Republic and the distribution copies of the film simply lack English titles.

Getting all of the films was quite expensive. “We decided to use a crowdfunding campaign. The fact that we in one month reached 233 percent of the target amount shows how strong a fan base the artist has in the Czech Republic,” Oko director David Beránek said.

Miyazaki and his films have won numerous awards. In 2005 he received an honorary Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. In 2014 he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and he won an Honorary Oscar at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015. Spirited Away won an Academy Award, as well as the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film festival and many other honors. Most of the other films earned honors, at least in Japan.

The festival in Prague starts with Princess Mononoke, a historical fantasy about the struggle between the gods of a forest and humans, set in the late Muromachi period. Next up is Howl's Moving Castle, based on a novel by British writer Diana Wynne Jones. It is set in a fictional realm with both magic and modern technology, and recounts a conflict by using anti-war themes.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the only film not from Studio Ghibli, takes place in a distant post-apocalyptic world where a young princess becomes involved in a conflict between an ancient kingdom and a jungle of mutant insects.

Spirited Away is perhaps Hayao Miyazaki's best-known film. It follows the adventures of a sullen 10-year-old girl who gets trapped in the spirit world while her family is in the midst of moving. Part of the plot involves her parents being turned into pigs.

Magic continues in Kiki's Delivery Service, where a young girl moves to a new town and uses her flying ability to earn a living. The director wanted to show the independence of Japanese young women.

Castle in the Sky is the first film produced and released by Studio Ghibli. Two young people with a magic crystal search for a legendary floating castle while evading pirates and foreign agents. The film holds a record on Twitter for people tweeting a word from the film during a screening. The word “balse” reached a peak of 143,199 tweets in one second on Aug. 2, 2013.

If you don't know the film My Neighbor Totoro, you have certainly seen images from it. The large forest spirit standing at a bus stop in the rain has been widely reproduced, and the same creature is the mascot of Studio Ghibli. Two girls move to the country to be with their sick mother and have adventures with the local forest spirits.

For more information, visit www.biooko.net or www.facebook.com/events

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