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 »
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
That man you just passed on the street, the one wearing four layers of clothing and a month's worth of human smell stench? Yeah him. Do you know who he is? Or what his history might be? These are the questions that suddenly plague New York director and documentarian Linda Hattendorf. Seeing one of these nameless faces wandering near where she lived, Linda decided to place her lens on him. His name, she quickly learns, is Jimmy Mirikitani, and his story is almost too much to believe.
A sidewalk artist who's specialty involved drawing Japanese cats and portraits of his wartime experiences, Jimmy is a complex and talented man. And when the 9/11 attacks occur only a few blocks away from Jimmy's normal homeless home-spot, Linda takes him in so that he doesn't have to choke on the dust littering the skies immediately after the collapse of the twin towers. The attacks on the twin towers also begin echoing prejudices against Muslim Americans, a prejudice that Jimmy is far too familiar with.
As Linda's cameras continue to record Jimmy's life, we learn that not only was Jimmy a peace loving man before WW II, but he also was an up-and-coming artist ...until he and his family were forced into Japanese internment camps in California. Everything was stripped away from Jimmy, including (or so he thought) his U.S. citizenship. As Linda tries to help Jimmy both mentally and financially, she runs up against Jimmy's anger and distrust of the government. Jimmy constantly refuses her requests to find out if he's eligible for social security, often sparking outbursts against the U.S. bureaucracy. His anger, it soon become apparent, is due to his internment time, his forced signing of documents relinquishing his U.S. citizen status (even though he was born in Sacramento, California), and the WW II bombing of his beloved Hiroshima (his hometown).
In his 80s, Jimmy also doesn't know what's happened to his family. He soon learns that he has plenty living in California. But opening up to them is not an easy road as his obvious mental illness intrudes upon his better judgement.
It is a poignant and memorable documentary for the simple reason that a person took the time to get to know this homeless man and uncovered a goldmine of information about an incredible person and an artist. His images are strikingly beautiful and haunting, hearkening back to his time in the internment camps and his early career as a hopeful artist.
The story is what really sticks with you, too. As we watch Linda (the documentary maker) uncover layer after layer of this unique man, we don't pity him but, instead, begin to UNDERSTAND him. That's a huge revelation. We understand why Jimmy is so angry. Why he's so reluctant to get close to people. And why, eventually, he comes out of his lonesome cocoon. It is a rebirth worth watching ...and enjoying
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