After centring its summer programming around the cinema of Japan, TIFF will launch its September festival with the latest production from one of the country’s greatest living directors.
Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron will have its international premiere as the official opening-night film of the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival, programmers announced Thursday.
The hand-drawn animated movie was released in Japan earlier this month, becoming the biggest box-office opening in the history of Miyazaki’s famed Studio Ghibli production company.
“We are honoured to open the 48th Toronto International Film Festival with the work of one of cinema’s greatest artists,” Cameron Bailey, chief executive of TIFF, said in a statement. “Already acclaimed as a masterpiece in Japan, Hayao Miyazaki’s new film begins as a simple story of loss and love and rises to a staggering work of imagination.”
The director’s first feature in a decade, the fantasy follows a young child who discovers an abandoned tower in his new town, where he encounters a talking grey bird. Said to be in line with Miyazaki’s best-known works – including My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, both of which were programmed as part of TIFF’s POP Japan summer series – The Boy and the Heron was released in Japan with almost no publicity or promotion from producers in order for audiences to experience the film’s surprises for themselves.
The selection of The Boy and the Heron marks the first time that an animated feature has filled TIFF’s opening-night programming, and could mark a critical turning point for the notoriously difficult-to-curate slot. In 2022, TIFF opened with the ripped-from-the-headlines drama, The Swimmers, but the Netflix production failed to catch fire with critics or audiences. The year before that, the festival chose to kick off its pandemic-era hybrid edition with the musical Dear Evan Hansen, which was almost instantly maligned.
TIFF, which runs Sept. 7-17, will continue to unveil its 2023 festival programming over the rest of the summer, with the full schedule announced toward the middle of August.