Ghibli Fest 2021 sparks joy, nostalgia, wonder

Illustration by Zachary Reinker

Through a partnership with American film distributor GKIDS, Studio Ghibli launched the first ever annual Ghibli Fest in 2017. The festival gives audiences the opportunity to see some of the studio’s most beloved films in participating theaters on select dates in October through December, including favorites such as “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “My Neighbor Totoro.”

If you grew up with Studio Ghibli movies, or have grown to love them as an adult, then you know that they have a unique way of capturing emotion, nostalgia and magic — and this year is a particularly significant one for the studio.

“Since their founding, Studio Ghibli has always wanted fans to see their works on the big screen,” said GKIDS’ President David Jesteadt on the company’s website. “We are delighted to partner with Fathom Events to welcome Ghibli fans back to cinemas with four of the studio’s most enduring works including a 20th anniversary celebration of “Spirited Away,” one the most influential and celebrated films of all time.”

This year also celebrates the 35th anniversary for the film “Castle in the Sky,”meaning that 2021 celebrates a milestone for both films. At participatinglocations, both the subtitled and the English-dubbed versions of the films will be shown, so viewers will be able to pick their preference.

“So many of the scenes are just like paintings, so you just wanna take it all in,” Genevive Baldwin ’25 said. “I personally love the soundtracks, so being able to sit in a theater and hear it all around you is so cool.”

Baldwin first discovered films from the studio at a young age.

“When I was a kid, my mom would take me to the library to rent movies, and one day she. was like ‘I think we should try watching one of these’ — she had never seen one — and we both just became kind of obsessed with them,” Baldwin said. “I watched so many of them when I was younger, and in quarantine I watched every single one in order.”

Baldwin has attended the event several times in the past, and notes that the audience seemed to span across ages.

“I think a great kids movie is one that works for both kids and adults,” Baldwin said. “Because a big part of it is talking about important issues, like environmental justice … if you’re watching it as an adult you can see those messages, and there’s a different kind of impact to that. I think it works for both, which is what makes them so good.”

Sentimental ties to the movies are a common theme among Ghibli fans. Abri Boyd ’23 first saw “My Neighbor Totoro” while staying with a host family in Japan in 2018, and said that the experience brought her even closer to her host siblings.

“When they learned I’d never seen it, they freaked out,” Boyd said. “So we all sat down and watched it, and the entire time they were holding hands, it was so cute. The next day, my host mom bought a Totoro plushie and gave it to me right before I got on my flight home. She even sprayed it with her perfume so it would smell like her. They were the most lovely family, and that secured my Ghibli love.”

Show dates for “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Castle in the Sky” have already passed, but do not worry — you can still catch “My Neighbor Totoro” in theaters on Dec. 5, 6 or 9 by checking out the official Ghibli Fest website or Regal Entertainment locations in the Portland area.

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