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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

‘Graveyard of the Fireflies’: For mature ‘kids’ only

I don't know who is doing the programming for Studio Ghibli Fest 2018, but somebody has made a mistake.

The festival is, of course, part of the ongoing Fathom Events series that brings special movie screenings to theaters all over the country. In our area, they play mostly at two Regal Cinemas locations: Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium. In this case, the films are animated features from Japan's world-renowned Studio Ghibli.

Animated movies, however, aren't always for children. And even mature children will have trouble with "Graveyard of the Fireflies," the Studio Ghibli Fest 2018 feature that will play Sunday, Monday and Wednesday at Northtown and Riverstone Stadium.

The film series is presented by the organization GKIDS, which on its Wikipedia page is described as a company that puts "a focus on 'sophisticated, indie' animation."

And make no mistake, "Grave of the Fireflies," which was released in 1988, is exactly that: a sophisticated work of art. Directed by Isao Takahata, who just died in April at age 82, and adapted by Takahata from a short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, the film is arguably one of the great animated movies of all time.

But for young children? Probably not. "Grave of the Fireflies" tells the story of two young Japanese siblings, a brother and sister, who struggle to survive the aftermath of World War II. Living in Kobe, and now orphaned, the two endure the firebombing of the city and are forced to live hand-to-mouth as well as they can.

Takahata, perhaps following Nosaka's lead — I haven't read the original story — gives his film a mystical feel, with the young sister bonding with fireflies. So, yes, "Graveyard of the Fireflies" is well worth seeing, with the usual stunning Studio Ghibli visuals.

Just don't expect Takahata to compromise the story's ending. He doesn't do Disney.