‘Hula Girls’ and ‘Ponyo’ at Faith UMC

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TORRANCE — Japanese Movie Night will present “Hula Girls” (2006) and “Ponyo” (2009) on Sunday, June 23, at 5 p.m. at Faith United Methodist Church, 2115 W. 182nd St., Torrance.

“Hula Girls” (フラガール), directed by Sang-il Lee and co-written by Lee and Daisuke Habara, stars Yū Aoi, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Etsushi Toyokawa, Shizuyo Yamazaki, Ittoku Kishibe, Eri Tokunaga, Yoko Ikezu and Sumiko Fuji. It is based on a real-life event — how a group of enthusiastic girls take on hula dancing to save their small mining village, Iwaki, helping the formation of Joban Hawaiian Center (now known as Spa Resort Hawaiians), which was later to become one of Japan’s most popular theme parks.

Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, “Hula Girls” was critically acclaimed upon release in Japan and received 12 nominations at the 2007 Japan Academy Awards, going on to win five major awards — best film, best director, best screenplay, best supporting actress (Aoi), and most popular film. It also won two major awards at the 80th Kinema Junpo awards — best film and best supporting actress (Aoi).

Meanwhile, the kids will be entertained by “Ponyo” (崖の上のポニ), written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli. The plot centers on a goldfish named Ponyo (voiced by Yuria Nara, Noah Cyrus in the English version) who befriends a 5-year-old human boy, Sōsuke (Hiroki Doi, Frankie Jonas in the English version), and wants to become a human girl. The film won several awards, including the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.

Free admission and popcorn. Short reflection after movie. Info: (310) 217-7000, http://faithsouthbay.org

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