The Cats of Mirikitani

The Cats of Mirikitani

3.0 out of 53.0 out of 53.0 out of 53.0 out of 5 3.0

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Not to be crass, but Linda Hattendorf needed 9/11. Panic struck the city while the filmmaker, a resident of SoHo, was shooting a documentary on a homeless artist named Jimmy Mirikitani. Her camera catches the smoke coming out of the Twin Towers before it pans over to see her octogenarian subject working on one of his immaculate creations, his back to the nightmare panning out in the sky above. This man’s gesture may seem innocent, but it is actually one of quiet defiance, and it would take 9/11 for Hattendorf to fully comprehend the great tragedy of Jimmy’s life and what it tells us about American modes of aggression in times of war. Born in Sacramento but raised in Hiroshima, Jimmy and his family were consigned to an internment camp in Tule Lake, California during WWII. This horrible experience has never left the man, who continues to paint the mountainous backyard of his old prison home, the jack rabbits and rattle snakes that dwelled there, and the cats that were an obsession to a young boy who would follow Jimmy around the camp before mysteriously dying and being buried somewhere in the desert. After the war, Jimmy was separated from his family and stripped of his American identity, a cruel violation that goes a long way in explaining the man’s poverty and contempt for our country. On 9/11, a compassionate Hattendorf takes the man into her home, hoping to give him the help he is resistant to, coaxing information out of him and stumbling across a letter that might have changed Jimmy’s life forever had he actually received it way back in 1959. With scant rage for the system that destroyed this man’s family and career, Hattendorf humanely devotes herself to guiding Jimmy past his pain. Together they pave a symbolic path toward healing that is an inspiration to us all.

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DVD
Runtime
74 min
Rating
NR
Year
2006
Director
Linda Hattendorf
Cast
Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, Janice Mirikitani, Roger Shimomura, Linda Hattendorf