Japanese animation director Ayumu Watatabe brings to the screen one of the most beautiful films in recent memory. But, the beauty of his “Children of the Sea” isn’t only measured by the striking visuals that are constant showstoppers. It is also a fascinating and meaningful tale of the relationship between creatures occupying the largest living mass on earth, the sea, and the universe stretching far beyond our tiny planet.
The film, now streaming on Netflix, was adapted from the manga of the same name by author Daisuke Igarashi and features a gorgeous film score by award-winning composer and longtime Studio Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi (who did the music for one of my all time favorite Hayao Miyazaki films, “Princess Mononoke.”).
In a 2019 media report, Hisaishi said, "What's interesting about this movie is that it has things you wouldn't expect as story … I stuck to a minimalist music style for the entire picture, so it has been quite a challenge as a film score. The film inspires the viewer's imagination of the universe's memories and the effervescence of life."
The film is a little deceptive at first because, like a good storyteller, Watanabe allows his story to unspool in its own time so we, the audience, get to know the main characters and the back stories that will guide them through the epic events to come.
It centers on a young girl named Ruka, whose parents are separated. She lives with her dad who works at a local aquarium. In early scenes we learn that Ruka has a hard time fitting in with other kids at school, mainly because she is extremely physical and talented but gets in trouble because she doesn’t know how to control herself.
Still, she is fascinated by her dad’s work. When she was much younger she believes she saw a ghost in the sea water, a vision she has never forgotten.
One day after suffering a disappointment at school, she visits the aquarium where she sees a boy swimming among the fish. This is Umi, whom she learns is the younger brother of Sora, both of whom were raised in the sea by dugongs (a marine mammal similar to manatees). They are there being studied by scientists who are curious about the boys’ apparent ability to communicate with undersea creatures nonverbally.
The problem is that Sora seems ill and may not live for long. No one know why, but soon Ruka gets an inkling when she begins to understand that she herself may possess the same talents as the boys. In the meantime, sea creatures all over the world begin migrating away from their traditional territories.
Where this all leads may be a bit too metaphysical for young children, or maybe not. The amazing visuals have such a compelling quality it is hard not to be drawn in, mesmerized by how an animated film can do what it does. If you do watch with young ones, be prepared for some interesting questions.
“Children of the Sea” is not rated. It is streamed in an English dubbed version.
Tempo grade: A+.
Also streaming at the TCA’s Big Screen @ Home service.
Made in Bangladesh
Ticket price $12.
Shimu works gruelling hours for paltry pay in a clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Exposed to unsafe working conditions, she is moved to start a union. Her attempts are met with resistance from her patriarchal employers as well as colleagues who fear losing their jobs. Despite threats from the management and disapproval of her husband, Shimu is determined to go on. Channeling real-life stories, this empowering, layered drama shines a light on an oppressive industry and demands our attention.
This film will be available to view now through September 16 at the Taos Center for the Art’s Big Screen @ Home service. Ticket costs $12. See below for instructions on how to view this film online.
Out Stealing Horses
Ticket price $12.
It is November 1999 and 67-year-old Trond (Stellan Skarsgård) lives in self-imposed isolation and looks forward to welcoming in the new millennium alone.
As winter arrives, he meets one of his few neighbors, Lars (Bjørn Floberg), and realizes he knew him in the summer of 1948. An ambitious film that examines memory and consciousness through the perspective of an older man who’s determined to escape from memory and to constrict his lived experience.
Adapted from the highly acclaimed novel by Per Petterson, this film was directed by Hans Petter Moland, who collaborated with the author on the screenplay.
This film will be available to view now through October 16 at the Taos Center for the Art’s Big Screen @ Home service. Ticket costs $12. Log back in on Sunday (Sept. 6) for a free TCA Film Fans Discussion on Zoom.
How does Big Screen TCA @ HOME work?
Go to tcataos.org/calendar/ and click on the movie you want to watch. Then, click on the WATCH MOVIE link. After that, it’s easy! You will “buy a ticket,” and be able to view the film. Watch on your computer, smartphone, tablet. Or, depending on the film, cast to your Apple TV, Google Chromecast or Roku. Instructions for how to watch on smart TVs are available at ticket purchase.
Why do movies cost a fee? These offerings are new releases and/or not widely available films. If you were going to see this on a big screen, a single entry at the Taos Community Auditorium costs between $7-$8.50. If there are 2 or more of you, it’s a deal! And even though TCA does not set the ticket price (the digital distributors do), it receives 50 percent of the ticket sales.
Why are time frames for viewing upon purchasing a ticket different? Virtual cinema platforms differ depending on the film’s distributor. The entire film industry is working fast to pivot during this time when social gatherings are prohibited. So, for now, there is no industry standard and different organizations have different ideas for how to “present” films digitally.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres in Taos and the Taos Community Auditorium remain closed for the time being in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Until they reopens we will focus on movie reviews available online and through the TCA’s Big Screen @ Home series.