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The Cats of Mirikitani

The Cats of Mirikitani
Lucid Dreaming Inc.
Rated NR
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema on November 27th, 28th and 29th.
Review by: Larry Thomas

Just as you should never judge a book by a cover, never should you make assumptions about a film title. If you saw The Cats of Mirkitani listed, you may think it’s a nature documentary filmed in some exotic locale. You’d be wrong. It is, to paraphrase James Joyce, a portrait of the artist as an old man.

The Cats of Mirkitani is a study of an 80-year-old homeless artist in New York City, Jimmy Mirikitani. He was born in Sacramento of Japanese descent and grew up in Hiroshima. He returned to his native America to be an artist, and during World War 2 was held in one of the US internment camps with other Japanese-Americans for almost four years. We learn some about what he did in the interim after his release, but even more about his later life.

Former Cincinnatian Linda Hattendorf was living and working in New York near the financial district. She first met Jimmy Mirikitani on the streets of Soho, and had a passing acquaintance. After the events of September 11, 2001, she found Jimmy sitting alone, coughing, in the noxious atmosphere. Linda invited him into her home and a great friendship was born, as well as a heartfelt film project.

While under internment, Jimmy was followed around by a young boy who wanted him to draw cats. So he did. His drawings turned into sketches, and eventually paintings. Tabby cats, alley cats, tigers, any kind of cat. Jimmy also drew his memories of the camp in California where he was imprisoned along with 18,000 other American citizens.

There are political parallels between Jimmy’s story and the post-911 feelings in America. But more importantly, there’s a story of true friendship as filmmaker Hattendorf helps Jimmy get off the street and back into society. He reconnects with old friends, and his last surviving sibling. He finds people who appreciate his art and talent.

There was hope that The Cats of Mirkitani would make the short list of fifteen titles from which the five Oscar nominees for Best Documentary would be selected. It did not, but it’s still well worth seeing, as a testament to friendship and the human spirit.

Cincinnati World Cinema is presenting The Cats of Mirkitani for three showings at the Cincinnati Art Museum, where Linda Hattendorf once took drawing lessons. The film will be screened at 7 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. There are dinner-and-a-movie opportunities with local eateries, and Ms. Hattendorf will be present at each screening for a Q&A session following the film.


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