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A documentary exploring secret lives, behavior and extreme levels of human-beast intimacy and communication, focusing on the 'only in New York' story of Antoine Yates and his cohabitation in a Harlem high-rise with Ming, a five-hundred-pound tiger and Al, a seven-foot alligator, combined with filmic observation of predators in domesticated geographies. Written by
Big Other Films
Antoine Yates was a guy whose arrest once caused a furor in New York when it was found out he kept a pet tiger in an Harlem apartment complex. Oh, and he also had a gator there. Well, the tiger eventually bit him and he had to call 911. The police evacuated the animals and Yates was jailed for a couple of months for reckless endangerment.
The first part of this movie concentrates on Yates driving around in Harlem and remembering his days with Ming the Tiger. He's an interesting character and raising wild animals seemed to have some spiritual meaning for him...it's his true calling.
Just as I was thinking this entire movie will be like this, we suddenly see a tiger in the apartment...and later we see the gator too. The apartment (built in a studio setting, with cameras in each room) follows the layout of Yates' real apartment. The viewer gets the feeling how it was for the tiger to spend his existence in this barren environment. Well, the male tiger they used there didn't seem particularly happy, that's for sure. He seemed to be bored out of his mind.
This apartment sequence lasted around 25 minutes or so and was mostly without any verbal commentary. Well, not entirely though as at some point an Icelandic woman started to recite freestyle poetry about the animals. This knock off Björk performance was quite annoying to be fair and the movie might've been better without it. Yet this mostly silent animal sequence had overall a very mystical and eerie feeling and made the movie worth watching.
Ming of Harlem is basically a cross between narrative documentary and experimental art-house...never seen something quite like it.
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