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The Cats of Mirikitani (2006)

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Documentary about red-beret-ed Jimmy Mirikitani, a feisty painter working and living on the street, near the World Trade Center, when 9/11 devastates the neighborhood. A nearby film editor,... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Linda Hattendorf ...
Jimmy Mirikitani ...


Documentary about red-beret-ed Jimmy Mirikitani, a feisty painter working and living on the street, near the World Trade Center, when 9/11 devastates the neighborhood. A nearby film editor, Linda Hattendorf, persuades elderly Jimmy to move in with her, while seeking a permanent home for him. The young woman delves into the California-born, Japan-raised artist's unique life which developed his resilient personality, and fuels his 2 main subjects: cats and internment camps. The editor films Jimmy's remarkable journey back into his incredible past. Written by David Stevens

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Make art not war.




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7 September 2007 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Les chats de Mirikitani  »

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Personal documentary of the life and work of New York City artist
12 August 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

When film maker Linda Hattendorf stumbles upon Japanese-American artist Jimmy Mirikitani on the streets of Soho, he is huddled for warmth under the awning of a Deli, drawing charming, stylized, joyful pictures of cats. They get acquainted, and she starts filming. The morning of 9-11 she rescues him from the horror and chaos of the streets, and he comes to live with her. They make the "Odd Couple" look tame, and she continues to unravel the stories of his life from his birth in Sacramento 80 years before, to his growing up in Hiroshima, to his return to the U.S. just before WWII---and just in time to be carted off to one of the "internment camps" for Japanese Americans.

The film follows Jimmy as he reveals more and more of his past, and follows Hattendorf as she helps him put together a life off the streets, and eventually to a reunion of internees at the Tule Lake Camp in California. This is a loving portrait, exquisitely filmed and told in a way that unfolds without pretense. Even when Jimmy draws parallels between his family's tragedy at Hiroshima and the tragedy of American stereotyping and anti-Arab sentiment after 9-11, the film is not heavy-handed or "preachy." It is simply lovely and poignant.

Hattendorf set out to film this interesting character (and wonderful artist---he calls himself a "grand master," and not without reason) and ended up giving him a new existence and helping him tie up many of the "loose ends" of his life---and letting us get to know both of them intimately and without judgment.

This is the simple art of film making and story telling at its best.

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