BFI SOUTHBANK CINEMA to Run Anime Programming Through April and May
The British Film Institute (BFI) is a charitable organization in the UK, focused on film-making and television promotion and preservation. The organization maintains a library of over 11,000 titles of various cultural and historical significance. They also run the BFI Southbank cinema, which holds four screens for curated programming throughout the week. This April and May, the BFI aims to show the British public that anime can be much more than “Post-apocalyptic worlds, fetishized characters and ultraviolence…”, by promoting a special block of programming spanning the history of the genre, from it’s origination to some of the latest international hit films, and truly represents a wide variety of films that can appeal to fans of more than just action!
For this curated season of film, simply referred to by BFI as “Anime”, there’s plenty to chew on for casual fans and enthusiasts. Notable to fans of historical film, the block will feature a selection of rarities, representing some of the earliest days of the genre from 1917 to 1946, including Junichi Kouchi’s 1917 film, Namakura Gatana (trans. The Dull Sword), which was found in an antique shop in Osaka in the 2000s. Also featured in this block is the once thought lost propaganda film, Momotaro: Umi no Shinpei (trans. Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors, or Momotaro: Sacred Sailors). The film was directed by Mitsuyo Seo, under orders from the Japanese Naval Ministry during World War 2. This film was once believed completely destroyed by the American occupation, but a negative copy of the film was located in a warehouse in 1983, and re-released in 1984, eventually being reproduced and released on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray, even making it to the US via Funimation alongside another historical film.
Other curated programming includes a set of films by what BFI calls “Emerging Female Voices”, including sensational film A Silent Voice, a stunning work featuring a hearing impaired protagonist trying to navigate all of the drama of a disabled girl’s high school life, including a bully who becomes desperate for her forgiveness after becoming guilt stricken for his hand in hurting her. Additionally, beloved anime studio, Studio Ghibli, will be on feature, including classics My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.
However, this writer is well aware of the mission of this site, so with this in mind, allow me to make a few suggestions for programming, for those trying to break in to the world of anime!
The final version of Astro Boy that it’s original creatror, Osamu Tezuka, would be involved with, this is a more action packed and somewhat darker toned version of the original 1960s work. Astro Boy is the story of the robot Tobio, who was created with a special “Omega Factor” circuit, which essentially humanizes him. The story involves Tobio and his creator, navigating a father/son relationship while trying to hide Tobio from a government that fears him, and wants him destroyed. Tobio will face many challenges as Dr. Tenma, his creator, attempts to raise him as his son, but the evil Count Walpurgis has stolen Tobio’s blueprints, and intends to use the Omega Factor to create a super robot and dominate the world!
In this 110min block of programming, the episodes The Birth of Astro Boy, Frankenstein and The Greatest Robot in the World (Parts 1 & 2), will be shown.
The immortal classic series that combines neo-noir cool with science fiction and a legendary soundtrack by Yoko Kanno, Cowboy Bebop follows the story of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine and Edward, a mismatched team of bounty hunters traveling space and tracking criminals for cash. Taking place between episodes 22 and 23 of the series (available on Netflix and absolutely essential viewing, with an amazing dub!), the crew finds themselves caught in a terrorist plot to destroy the population of Mars with a deadly pathogen. The crew races to find the terrorist and discover the source of the pathogen before it’s too late.
Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and with music by Yoko Kanno, this anime and the film that accompany it has it all; a killer, mature story, fun characters, stylish action, and music that, decades later, still elicits a powerful response from fans, Cowboy Bebop is not to be missed.
Simply put, Ghost in the Shell is the cyberpunk movie that your favorite cyberpunk movie wishes it was. Showing in IMAX, this gorgeous, sometimes disturbing film, is a futuristic story about a not far from reality version of 2029 Earth, where the human body can be augmented or completely replaced with cybernetics. Technology has advanced to the point where the human brain can be placed into a mechanical casing called a “cyberbrain”, allowing access to the internet and other networks, which can be placed into an augmented body (the titular “Ghost in the Shell”). The story revolves around Public Safety Section 9, a special unit of the Public Safety force, and the assault team leader, Major Motoko Kusanagi, as they track a dangerous super hacker called the “Puppet Master”. The film examines themes that include the evolution of technology and AI, what it means to be human, and politics in a world where nothing is as it seems at a glance.
Also showing is a special preview engagement of the upcoming film Bubbles, which you can read about here!
This is intended as a quick list, and by no means all-inclusive. There are many excellent shorts and films on offer at BFI Southbank, and some of these movies absolutely must be experienced in cinema if possible (seriously, go see Ghost in the Shell in the IMAX theatre. You won’t regret it).
You can find a more complete line-up, as well as ticket links, by clicking the name of any of the films above, or by visiting this link. BFI has made jumping in to Japanese animation simple and accessible for the British Public, and there’s something for everyone in the programming season!
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