When one thinks of the word “anime,” a few things often come to mind. Japan, where the art form originated, for one, and the stylized graphics typical of the genre — pops of color, vibrant characters and fantastical worlds — for another. While, at least in America, this is what the word connotes, “anime” actually encompasses a broader range of hand- and computer-animated films, and it’s an art form that’s been expanding worldwide over the past 50 years.
Reflecting this growing popularity, Durham’s Carolina Theatre is reinstating its Anime-Magic Film Series for a second year, featuring animated classics from all over the globe. This year’s selections include favorites from Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki, such as “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Princess Mononoke,” as well as lesser-known films like Mamoru Oshii’s “Ghost in the Shell” and French classic “The King and the Mockingbird” from director Paul Grimault.
“Over the last twenty years, anime as a genre of film has just exploded here in the United States,” said Jim Carl, senior director of programming at the Carolina Theatre and the founder of the Anime-Magic Film Series. “When I first moved to this part of the country back in 1995, there were no anime clubs, it wasn’t being taught at the colleges ... there was not this reverence for anime that you find now in 2018.”
Part of the reason for this, as Carl explained, is that many foreign movies — including anime films — have only very small theatrical releases in the United States. While Totoro, one of Miyazaki’s characters, is comparable to Winnie the Pooh in Japan, it wasn’t until films in which he starred were released on DVD and shown on cable that he gained a following in America as well.
The prevalence of Comic-Cons and comic book shops, as well as the expansion of cable, has also had a role in increasing awareness of anime in the U.S. However, due to strict theatrical rights requirements, many anime fans are restricted to viewing their favorite films at home. Anime-Magic hopes to combat these viewing restrictions by showing films on theatrical screens during the series, as well as by working to expand the number of films with U.S. theatrical rights. For “Ghost in the Shell,” one of the films being shown this year, that process took two years.
“What this series does and what I hope that it accomplishes is it allows a lot of those fans that love animation and anime an opportunity to see these movies for the first time on a big screen in a theatrical venue,” Carl said. “People say to me, ‘Why should I pay 10 dollars to see a movie that I own on Blu-Ray at home?’ Valid question. The answer is because you’ve only ever seen it on your TV at home. You’ve never had the chance to see it on a big screen with a live audience, and getting that reaction that you get in a theater.”
The Anime-Magic Film Series, one of the newer additions to the Carolina Theatre’s repertoire, complements the dozen other film series and festivals put on by the venue, with two more in the works to be added this year. The Anime-Magic series itself grew out of the one of the other staples at the Theatre — the Retro Film Series.
“I’d like to believe that [The Carolina Theatre of Durham] is the go-to venue that is known for producing these kinds of series. If not us, then who? If not here, then where?” Carl said. “I’ve worked very hard for the past twenty-three years for the Carolina Theatre’s film program to be that venue and that location where these kinds of series can thrive, and every year I’m adding more.”
Part of the reason why these series have had so much success — Anime-Magic was actually the most popular film series the theater put on in 2017 — is because of their originality. None of the series shown at the Carolina Theatre are touring: They are all curated by the Carolina Theatre staff and shown exclusively at the Durham venue.
“There are a lot of series and festivals that appear at theaters across the country that are just traveling series, they’re owned by a particular organization and they tour them throughout different cities. But all of the series that are produced here at the Carolina Theatre are ours,” Carl said. “We created them, we named them, we picked the films — they’re not part of some traveling road show. ... It’s happening at the Carolina Theatre in Durham and nowhere else.”
The Anime-Magic Film Series will be shown at the Carolina Theatre of Durham from Friday, Mar. 2 to Sunday, Mar. 3. A full film schedule can be viewed and tickets can be bought on the Carolina Theatre’s website.
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