THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS
Directed by Mami Sunada
Official Selection, 2014 Toronto International Film Festival
Studio Ghibli has become the world’s most storied animation studio, and house director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle) has made modern classics that are amongst the most internationally beloved films ever. Ghibli is holy ground as far as fans are concerned, so Mami Sunada’s documentary THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS is a rare look through the pearly gates.
Miyazaki is a magician, but Sunada’s presence allows Miyazaki to publicly shed his wizard robes and simply be the elder artist, smoking a cigarette with the neighborhood cat. He and Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata are preparing their final films, The Wind Rises and The Tale of Princess Kaguya respectively, and the rest of the Ghibli dream factory, from the producers to the animators, scramble to get the films out in time.
Now in their 70s, Miyazaki and Takahata have nothing to prove to anybody but themselves, so the care through which they obsess over every detail of their craft and manage a team of Japan’s best animators is moving in itself. However, the way the closing arc of Miyazaki’s career mirrors the developing narrative of his final film becomes the most powerful subplot of all. Things aren’t always smooth in the Ghibli dreamland, but Sunada’s candid documentary captures the seamlessness between art and artist that is nothing short of grace. –Erwin Mendoza