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Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air review – a tiger tale, badly told

24 July 2016 12:00 AM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

This documentary about illegal exotic pets in a Harlem apartment block fails to do its extraordinary story justice

When the police responded to an emergency call to an apartment in Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard, Harlem, they found Antoine Yates and his pets: an adult male tiger called Ming and a seven-foot alligator called Al. This enigmatic documentary resolutely refuses to answer the key questions: where did he get them? What happened to them after they were confiscated? How bad did the apartment smell? Instead, it takes a baggy, unfocused approach. Yates drives around the neighbourhood, reminiscing about day-to-day routine of tiger care. Then, in an extended and curiously hypnotic sequence, we see an actual tiger in an exact recreation of the apartment. There’s a tension to watching 500 pounds of bored, stressed animal pacing and huffing in the confines of the building. But the poem recited by Icelandic musician Hildur Guðnadóttir, »

- Wendy Ide

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