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‘Mirai’ Filmmaker Mamoru Hosoda on Family, Imagination and Academy Invite

Family is an important theme for Japanese animation director Mamoru Hosoda, and his new film, “Mirai,” is no exception. The film, one of his most intimate, is about a young boy who comes to terms with becoming a big brother when his parents bring home his new baby sister, something Hosoda’s family experienced not too long ago.

Mirai” will have its North American premiere this weekend, Oct. 19-21, at the Animation Is Film Festival at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood. Hosoda will be on hand for Friday’s premiere and over the course of the weekend for screenings of some of his other films that the festival is highlighting, including “Summer Wars,” “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time,” “Wolf Children,” and “The Boy and the Beast.”

Hosoda answered some of Variety’s questions about his work and influences.

Our critic called “Mirai” your most personal film yet. What does this story mean to you?

I think the observation is on point. However, it is incorrect if my film is considered to be thoroughly based on my personal experiences. I use my imagination to tell a story about things I don’t know. I use my imagination to portray what I yearn for or things that are missing within me. That’s how I create movies. I am an only child but “Mirai” is a story about siblings. I’m an adult living in a society but I wanted to portray the world through a child’s eyes.

Can you talk about your process? How do you get your ideas?

I think what I experience with my family, such as the joys and troubles in our everyday life, is something other families in other parts of the world would experience as well. Three years ago, we welcomed a new baby [girl], and my three-year-old son just couldn’t accept the fact that he was now an older brother. He threw tantrums because he didn’t want to share his parents’ love. When I saw that, I thought I saw the raw and bare soul of a human being. Humans can’t survive without love. Life is all about longing to be loved, wandering around to find love, and accepting others to gain love. That’s what I learned from my three-year-old son.

What do you like best about animation? 

Generally speaking, animated films have frequently depicted children. I suppose it is the most suitable media to portray children. Perhaps we choose animation to tell a story about children because we want to go back to our childhood, and to escape from our social responsibilities to live freely like children. Maybe we want to see the world sparkle with wonder again.

What have been your biggest influences?

When I was younger, I was influenced by painters from foreign countries or art from the past. But now I’m more inspired by things that are closer to me, such as my children and my wife.

What have been your biggest challenges?

I’m aiming to challenge myself with every film I make. In “Wolf Children,” I made the main character a mother. In “Mirai,” the main character was a four-year-old boy. This is something that hasn’t been done before in the history of film. I believe that there are infinite possibilities in animated films. I want to keep challenging those possibilities to make movies that people haven’t seen before.

You were invited to join the Motion Picture Academy this year. What does that mean to you? How do you feel about the Academy opening up to a wider range of voices?

I’m just so surprised and humbled. If I could contribute to the film culture, that will be great.

A complete schedule, tickets and more information is available on the Animation Is Film website

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