Kaze Tachinu, which opened in Japan on July 20th, is based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a World War II designer of Zero fighters, including the Mitsubishi A6M Zero which was used by the imperial Japanese navy for kamikaze missions and during the Pearl Harbor bombing.
“My wife and staff would ask me, ‘Why make a story about a man who made weapons of war?” Miyazaki told Japan’s Cut magazine in 2011. “And I thought they were right. But one day, I heard that Horikoshi had once murmured, ‘All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.’ And then I knew I’d found my subject… Horikoshi was the most gifted man of his time in Japan. He wasn’t thinking about weapons… Really all he desired was to make exquisite planes.”
According to the South China Morning Post, this choice of subject matter, which lead to some veiled jabs at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has put Miyazaki in the crosshairs of conservative nationalists. He has also found himself defending the film to South Koreans offended of his glorification of a man so closely connected to a Japanese military that used forced laborers from the Korean peninsula. And, the Japan Society for Tobacco Control, has taken issue with the depictions of smoking presented in the film, especially in a scene where the lead character smokes a cigarette while sitting with his wife, who is bedridden and suffering from tuberculosis.
Despite the controversy (or perhaps because of it), Kaze Tachinu was Japan’s biggest opening of the year at ¥960M ($9M US) in its first two days, and has stayed at number for four consecutive weekends with a total box office gross of ¥7.2B ($74.1M US). Kaze Tachinu will screen in Venice from August 31-September 2, and at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 12 and 15. The film’s screening dates for the New York Film Festival haven’t been set yet.