Tuesday, July 10, 2012

17. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)


Grave of the fireflies (or Hotaru no Haka) is one of the best anti-war movies ever made (in my opinion).  Made in 1988 by Studio Ghibli, the company founded by Miyazaki (they make movies such as Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, Nausicaa, etc.) the film is directed by Isao Takahata.  Takahata has a distinctive animation style and his movies, which are often touching and nostalgic include:  Only Yesterday (1991), Pom Poko (1994) and the hilarious My Neighbour the Yamadas (1999).  Undoubtedly, Grave of the Fireflies, is his masterpiece.  

The film tells the story of two children, Seita, a 14 year old boy who looks after his little sister, 4 year old Setsuko.  Set against the firebombing of the city of Kobe, the mother of the children is caught in the bombing and dies.  The children move in with their aunt.  However, as the food supplies diminish the aunt becomes increasingly resentful and the children move out into an abandoned food shelter.  Seita has no option but to steal food, but his supplies of rice are insufficient.  Setsuko slowly dies of malnutrition just as the announcement comes of Japan's unconditional surrender to the US.  

The film was based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, written as an apology to his little sister who died during WWII.  

The sentencing of Lubanga this morning to 14 years of imprisonment for his role in enlisting and conscripting children in the conflict in the DRC is one example of the plight of children during conflict.  Child soldiers in Africa, forcibly conscripted in some cases, sexually violated in others, have become a focus of prosecutions at the ICC.  Grave of the fireflies shows other hardships faced by children due to war and conflict.  Orphaned, homeless, starved and rejected by an adult population, the film is a reminder of the innocent lives destroyed in the senseless pursuit of territorial expansion.  Definitely worth watching.  

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