by Kaan Senaydin
The Bay Area is quite a place—certainly, a cultural capital of the world. Take film and food: you would be hard-pressed to keep up with the prodigious pace of film festivals and special film series showing every week; meanwhile, the city abounds with ways to enjoy very tasty and—if that’s your thing—challenging food and drink.
But for most of us, these opportunities can eat through paycheck or budget at an equally prodigious rate. In the interest of being thrifty, let’s bring things down to a comfortable level that doesn’t sacrifice experience: dinner and a movie.
Parents and cinephiles alike (not mutually exclusive) will welcome “Roxie Kids”, a new film series hosted by San Francisco’s Roxie Theater marking each month of summer with an animated feature for child and adult audiences. This is a fantastic opportunity for kids of all ages to enjoy some light-hearted adventure and good storytelling and for the youngest among us to become engrossed in the art of animation. You’re unlikely to find such programming at your local multiplex, especially with kids under the age of 12 getting in free, and cheap tickets for the rest of us.
I talked with the programmer, Fuyumi Saito, who had this to say about the series:
“We wanted to show films that families could enjoy on weekends. I remember my first cinema experience, Nausicaa by Hayao Miyazaki. I started learning from cinema ever since: the diversity of cultures, values, and people; how people fight, love, and feel, and more. The works of Hayao Miyazaki and Osamu Tezuka are world-famous animation and would be motivation for people to see new films. Ultimately, I hope people see the universality of their storytelling—to the point that people don’t think of this as Japanese or not.”
To that aim, Fuyumi notes that the next season of “Roxie Kids” will include animation works from outside Japan, as well.
Little ones—and fans of My Neighbor Totoro —enjoyed the series’ first offering, The Adventures of Panda and Friends , which screened June 29. Lupin the 3rd “The Castle of Cagliostro”, screens July 27 and the August 24 program features a series of Astro Boy episodes from the 1980s TV show created by Osamu Tezuka, the “God of Manga, Father of Anime.” The Castle of Cagliostro and Astro Boy screenings will best fit an elementary and early middle school crowd, but twenty-somethings will show up, no doubt. Of note: Hayao Miyazaki provided the concept and story for The Adventures of Panda and Friends , whereas Castle of Cagliostro was his directorial debut.
Playing in parallel this summer, the Roxie’s “Nippon Nights” series brings us animated works of greater sophistication. Also a nascent series, the first season is called “Neon-Tokyo: Anime World” and showcases some excellent examples of the artform. The Roxie’s proven ability to program challenging work is on full display here: “Nippon Nights is a monthly series of Japanese cinema bridging different genre, style, and generation.” NOTE: these films are not suitable for children.
Playing on July 16, Short Peace is a microcosm of the series, serving up a smorgasbord of powerhouse short films from some of the leading manga and anime artists working today, curated by one of the greats of manga and anime, Katsuhiro Otomo, who directed Combustible and wrote the original story for A Farewell to Weapons. Whether in film festivals, independent theaters, or nominated in various categories of the Academy Awards®, the Roxie promises we will see more of these artists and their galvanizing work.
The second showing of the series, Akira (1988), takes place August 21. This is the masterwork of the same Katsuhiro Otomo, who wrote the original 2000+ page manga epic and adapted it—mostly from the first half of the book—to the screen. While the original manga is famous in its own right, the film production broke standards of budget, production, and cooperation amongst Japanese animation studios, largely because Otomo maintained artistic control. It is credited as the first Japanese animation film to use pre-scored dialogue and laboriously fit the animation to that dialogue—a feat that resulted in over 160,000 animation cels.
The worldwide legacy and impact of Akira cannot be exaggerated. As evidence, the nerdier parts of the internet recently went abuzz with news of an adaption of The Simpsons to Akira, called Bartkira. Nineteen artists collaborated to create a 96-page comic book, which is for sale, and the project’s creator, James Harvey, plans to complete this mapping of Matt Groening’s world onto Otomo’s. The project brings some fresh perspective to a timeless work of dystopian vision.
“Nippon Nights” final offering is a feature / short combo about the punkcat Tamala (Tamala 2010: A Punkcat in Space and Wake Up!! Tamala ), screening September 25. These films will continue to build on a blackly comic, cyber-punk aesthetic, one that is funneled through a challenging female lead character. Wake Up!! changes directions somewhat, merging Tamala’s persona with the impending environmental disaster of climate change.
“Nippon Nights” is likewise curated by Japan native Fuyumi Saito. For further reading and perspective on the cultural conversation between Japan and the rest of the world, she recommends looking into Frederik L. Schodt. The series is endorsed by the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco and co-presented by CAAM (Center for Asian American Media).
As for food and drink options around the Roxie, the theater is located in the Mission (near the 16th and Mission BART stop), which provides several options, including nearby gastropubs:
- The Monk’s Kettle, which boasts a hefty binder of draft and bottled beers and a good New American food menu ($10–50);
- The Gestalt Haus, a dive-y bar with a nice beer list and several diversions, like a pool table, juke box, and tv projector ($8–20);
- Paprika, featuring classic Eastern European dishes and a great tap list from the Czech Republic and Germany ($11–30).
In keeping with the Roxie’s Japanese theme, there is also good ramen at Ramen Izakaya Goku ($10–30).
Finally, for good-to-excellent, cheap Mexican food, there is a Pancho Villa right down the block, and then, right off the 24th and MissionBART stop is El Farolito. A perennial local favorite, El Farolito also now occupies the #1 spot on FiveThirtyEight’s rankings of all burritos nationwide. Cheap and chart-topping—what more could one want? It’s going to be an excellent summer at and around the Roxie!
Hi, I’m Kaan—yes, as in Star Trek. (It’s a Turkish name.) I’m in my late twenties, and I hail from Miami and Atlanta but have lived all over the U.S. I work at a software company in Berkeley by day and spend my free-time enjoying an unreasonable amount of culture, frequenting the Roxie and Castro theaters right alongside the myriad Bay Area food establishments. Talk to me about Mad Men and Louie!