Living legend Hayao Miyazaki’s animated fantasy epic “The Boy and the Heron,” the latest from Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli, will open the 71st San Sebastian Festival, screening on Sept. 22.
Bowing San Sebastian, Miyazaki’s film, which he has declared to be his last, will score an extraordinary double of opening both the Toronto and San Sebastian festivals in the space of a couple of weeks.
The San Sebastian screening will mark the film’s European premiere. The Toronto-San Sebastian double is a mark of the huge regard in which Miyazaki is held and an upgrade in the importance of animation at San Sebastian.
This is the fourth time that a film by the Japanese moviemaker will screen at the San Sebastian Festival, but it is the first time he will participate in its Official Selection, the festival noted on Thursday.
Miyazaki was previously at San Sebastian’s big screen Velodrome with “Spirited Away” and “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” (2008) and in Perlak, San Sebastian’s best of fests spread, with “The Wind Rises.”
San Sebastian’s competition includes another animated feature, Isabel Herguera’s “Sultana’s Dream.” A third, “They Shot the Piano Player,” from Oscar winner Fernando Trueba, plays as a Special Screening.
An animated feature has opened San Sebastian before, however: Juan José Campanella’s “Foosball” in 2013.
“The Boy and the Heron” bowed earlier this year in Japan, punching $13.2 million in its opening weekend to mark it out as the biggest debut in Studio Ghibli’s history. The film follows a boy named Mahito Maki, who discovers an abandoned tower in his new town and enters a fantastical world with a talking grey heron.
Gkids is distributing “The Boy and the Heron” in North America, where it will be released in theaters later this year.