Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s animated fantasy epic, The Boy and the Heron, has been chosen to open this year’s 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The drama is set to screen on September 7 at Roy Thomson Hall concert hall in downtown Toronto, Variety is reporting.
After being absent from making features over the past decade, Miyazaki wrote, directed and hand drew The Boy and the Heron. The project is the first animated feature and first Japanese movie to be selected as TIFF’s opening night film.
The announcement that the drama will open the festival in its international premiere comes after several releases from Studio Ghibli, which the acclaimed filmmaker co-founded, have screened at TIFF. Those projects include the animated fantasy dramas, The Red Turtle from co-scribe-helmer Michaël Dudok de Wit, and Spirited Away from writer-director Hayao Miyazaki’s.
“We are honored to open the 48th Toronto International Film Festival with the work of one of cinema’s greatest artists,” said Cameron Bailey, CEO of TIFF. “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. I look forward to our audience discovering its mysteries for themselves, but I can promise a singular, transformative experience.”
The Boy and the Heron was released in Japanese theaters on July 14 . There, it generated $13.2 million in its opening weekend, and became the biggest debut in Studio Ghibli’s history.
The company launched the movie there without any promotion, marketing materials or plot description. It wanted audiences to be able to discover the twists and turns of the story without any expectations.
Similarly, TIFF’s programmers didn’t offer an official plot summary, voice cast or descriptions of the drama’s setting or characters when they announced it as the event’s opening night film.
After The Boy and the Heron‘s release in Japan, it been revealed its story follows a boy named Mahito Maki, who discovers an abandoned tower in his new town. It allows him to enters a fantastical world with a talking grey heron.
Studio Ghibli previously described the film as a grand fantasy that’s loosely inspired by Japanese author Genzaburo Yoshino’s 1937 novel, How Do You Live?. The coming-of-age story follows the emotional and philosophical development of a young boy after the death of his father.
TIFF will be the first time that audiences outside of Japan will watch the movie. GKIDS will distribute The Boy and the Heron in North America in theaters later this year.
Last year’s 47th edition of TIFF opened with the Netflix refugee drama The Swimmers. The biographical sports drama, which was co-written and directed by Sally El Hosaini, follows the journey of real-life sisters from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
This year’s edition of TIFF will run from September 7-17. It was previously announced that Taika Waititi’s biographical sports comedy-drama Next Goal Wins, Alexander Payne’s comedy The Holdovers, Kore-eda Hirokazu’s drama Monster and Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or winning thriller Anatomy of a Fall will also screen during the festival.