Thursday, April 23, 2009


The Cats of Mirikitani * * * * *
Directed by: Linda Hattendorf / 2006

He may have been without home, but 80-year-old artist Jimmy Mirikitani wasn’t bothered a bit. He’d been in worse situations. As long as he had some paper and something to draw cats and memories of life in American-ran Japanese internment camp, he was happy. And he was humble and extremely confident, all in one brush stroke. He didn’t ask of much. He didn’t complain about much, other than a deep bitterness towards what “stupid American government” did to him and his family by forcing them to live for years at Tule Lake prison camp and also a reminder of dropping a bomb on his boyhood home of Hiroshima. Other than that Jimmy loved America, and besides he was born here, in Sacramento, California. All bitterness aside, he just wanted to draw and tell his stories and "Make art, not war". Even on September 11, 2001, when every other New Yorker was looking up into the dark shadows of The Twin Towers, Mirikitani was looking down, crouched at his paper held in place by water bottles on a park table, working diligently on another self-proclaimed “masterpiece”. Linda Hattendorf befriended Jimmy months earlier, checking in on the neighborhood artist, hard at work on his paintings. If it wasn’t for her generosity he may have died in the harmful fallout of the ash and dust in the weeks that followed 9-11. Under grace and patience Hattendorf gave Jimmy a corner of her apartment for many months to paint his masterpieces. In that time as caretaker she also helped unveil a piece of his past that put him in the state he was in. And in order to get his life back in order, even well into the twilight years, Jimmy needed to revisit the past further than just in his paintings. “The Cats of Mirikitani” is one of the reasons why we need cinema and reflects on the immediacy of the documentary as pure art. This movie is extremely touching, heartfelt and a fine tribute to not only its subject, it’s unearthing of a true master talent, but also September 11, 2001 and those that lived, suffered and died in the American-ran Japanese internment camps of World War II. I was inspired beyond measure and wonder how many more Jimmy Mirikitanis there are wandering the streets that need our help. See this movie. -djg

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