Belcourt Theatre Presents Studio Ghibli Film Series, 6/1-6/13

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The Belcourt Theatre presents Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata and the Masters of Studio Ghibli, a film retrospective of the renowned Japanese animation studio from June 1-13. In addition to the series' 15 animated films, the Belcourt will also feature Studio Ghibli's most recent release, THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETY.

Founded in 1985 by animation directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli is a well respected animation studio, creating films known for their originality, animation and storytelling. The family-friendly series features new 35mm prints of popular films including the enchanting MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, Academy Award-winning SPIRITED AWAY, and CASTLE IN THE SKY, a film recognized by many as an influence on James Cameron's AVATAR. Lesser-known but equally magical films are also featured, including POM POKO, an action-filled ecological fable, and the sentimental journey ONLY YESTERDAY, among others. To accommodate families with small children, the Belcourt has schedulEd English language-dubbed versions of most films in mornings and afternoons, while English-subtitled versions will screen during evening/night hours. The Belcourt's website, www.belcourt.org, provides a complete schedule of show times, age recommendations for films and ticket purchase options, which include individual tickets and discounted packages.

The Belcourt offers two discounted ticket packages: a Full Pass, which includes one ticket for each of the Studio Ghibli films, at a cost of $100 ($80 for Belcourt members); and the popular 5-Pack, which includes five tickets for five films selected by the patron, at a cost of $32.50 ($25 for Belcourt members).

"The Belcourt Theatre is pleased to be the only venue in the Southeast to feature this treasured collection of Studio Ghibli films," says Toby Leonard, director of programming at the Belcourt Theatre. "Brilliant animation viewed on our large screens will captivate and even wow audiences, but it's Studio Ghibli's powerful storytelling and deeply felt humanism that will resonate with viewers long after exiting the theatre."

This retrospective of Studio Ghibli's roster features films produced between 1984 and 2008. While revered in Japan for years, the animation house first became known in America in 1999 when it teamed with Disney to present an English-language dubbed version of PRINCESS MONONOKE and then followed with additional titles including PONYO, SPIRITED AWAY and most recently THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETY. The familiar voices of many well-known Hollywood stars are featured in these dubbed versions and include Billy Crystal, Dakota Fanning, Anne Hathaway, Michael Keaton, Shia LaBeouf, Liam Neeson, Billy Bob Thornton, Uma Thurman and Lily Tomlin, among others.

The films share a unified humanist theme, pairing lush, natural landscapes with human characters -often children-that deal with real concerns about the earth, ecology, relationships and more.

The Castles in the Sky series is presented in collaboration with GKIDS, a distributor of award-winning animation for adult and family audiences. GKIDS provides age recommendations for films as a guideline for parents, available on the Belcourt's website, www.belcourt.org.

The series opens Friday, June 1 with the must-see NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, Miyazaki's debut film with awe-inspiring animation that tells the story of a young princess, both brave and innocent, whose love for all living things and passionate determination lead her into terrible danger, sacrifice and eventual triumph. NAUSICAÄ is considered by many to be Miyazaki's masterwork. The animated series continues through June 13.

Families with young children will enjoy films including PONYO, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE and THE CAT RETURNS. PONYO centers on the friendship between a five-year-old, Sosuke, and a magicAl Goldfish named Ponyo. The film is awash in pure unbridled imagination and visual wonder-but it is the tender love, humor and devotion exhibited by Ponyo and Sosuke that form the emotional heart of the film. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO is a simple tale of two girls who discover that their surrounding forests are home to a family of Totoros, gentle but powerful creatures that live in a huge and ancient camphor tree and are seen only by children. KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE is a story of a resourceful young witch who uses her broom to create a delivery service, only to lose her gift of flight in a moment of self-doubt. THE CAT RETURNS, suggested for children 6 and up, follows a young girl who is pitched into a fantastical feline world where she rescues the Prince of the Cats from being run over. In recognition for saving his life, the Prince brings the girl to the Kingdom of Cats to be his bride.

Combining Japanese mythology with "Through the Looking Glass" whimsy, SPIRITED AWAY cemented Miyazaki's reputation as an icon of inspired animation and wondrous, lyrical storytelling. This Academy Award-winning masterpiece was the biggest box office hit of all time in Japan and redefined the possibilities of animation for a generation of new filmmakers and American audiences alike. The film tells the story of a 10-year-old who stumbles into a dream-like spirit world where she is put to work in a bathhouse for the gods. There, she encounters a vast menagerie of impossibly inventive phantoms and spirits, some friendly, some less so-and must find the inner strength to outsmart her captors and return to her family. (SPIRITED AWAY is appropriate for all ages 9 and up.)

One of Miyazaki's rarely screened films, CASTLE IN THE SKY, tells the story of a young girl and boy who search for a floating island in the sky, site of a long-dead civilization promising enormous wealth and power to those who can unlock its secrets.

MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS features cartoon-like characters and visual design that evokes watercolor painting. The story wryly tweaks the everyday activities of an irresponsible and lazy family and their unassuming way of life.

Teens and adults will enjoy the highly acclaimed PRINCESS MONONOKE, a story of conflict between humans, gods and nature. A prince, who is infected with a lethal curse and must travel to find a cure, discovers himself caught in a battle between a mining town and the animals of the surrounding forest. (Because of violent battle scenes and frightening fantasy creatures this film is suggested for viewers over 13 years old.)

Some Studio Ghibli films address reflective and personal themes that face teens and young adults. OCEAN WAVES-a film rarely seen outside of Japan-is a story of adolescence and teenage isolation. In ONLY YESTERDAY, a bored 20-something woman wonders if she has been true to the dreams of her childhood self as she travels to the countryside and moves in a lyrical journey between the present and memories of her past.

Additional films include PORCO ROSSO, a must-see for aviation fans with aerial scenes; WHISPER OF THE HEART, a masterpiece about the awakening of creative talent; POM POKO features magical, mischievous animals who defend their forest from urban sprawl; and the Academy Award-nominated HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, a young girl's adventure to lift a curse that leads her to find refuge in a magical, moving castle.

Though not part of the touring retrospective, the Belcourt will also feature Studio Ghibli's THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY released in February of 2012. The film follows a tiny "borrower" named Arrietty, who makes friends with a young boy many times her size and must shield her family from his towering elders. But trouble brews when a curious maid starts asking questions.

The Belcourt Theatre is a nonprofit cultural institution dedicated to presenting independent, documentary, and world cinema; promoting visual literacy; and making film a vibrant part of the community while serving as a regular and important home for independent voices in music and theatre. Housed in Nashville's only historic neighborhood theatre, the Belcourt Theatre provides opportunities for people of all ages to discover, explore and learn through the power of film, music and theatre. Opening in 1925 as a silent movie house, the theatre was home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1934-36. Since the re-opening of the theatre in 1999 more than 650,000 people from Middle Tennessee have come here to see nearly 1,000 films from every corner of the globe, musicians both long established and newly emerging, and theatre from some of Nashville's most creative and imaginative artists. The Belcourt Theatre, 2102 Belcourt Avenue, Nashville, Tenn. 37212, 615-383-9140 www.belcourt.org

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