Monday, July 11, 2011
video topic: art
entry type: Documentary (art)
video title: The Cats of Mirikitani
artist featured: Jimmy Mirikitani
director: Linda Hattendorf
producer: Linda Hattendorf & Masa Yoshikawa (PBS: Independent Lens)
run time: 74 mins
release date: 2006
description and preview:
(click "read more" below)
Eighty-year-old Jimmy Mirikitani survived the trauma of WWII internment camps, Hiroshima, and homelessness by creating art. But when 9/11 threatens his life on the New York City streets and a local filmmaker brings him to her home, the two embark on a journey to confront Jimmy's painful past. An intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing powers of friendship and art, this documentary won the Audience Award at its premiere in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.
"Make art not war" is Jimmy Mirikitani's motto. The 80-year-old artist was born in Sacramento, California, raised in Hiroshima, Japan, traveled the U.S. and even cooked for artist Jackson Pollock. But by 2001, Mirikitani was homeless, living on the streets of New York City. As tourists and shoppers hurried past, Mirikitani sat alone on a windy corner in New York’s SoHo, drawing pictures of whimsical cats, bleak internment camps and the angry red flames of the atomic bomb. When local filmmaker Linda Hattendorf stopped to ask about his art, a friendship—detailed in THE CATS OF MIRIKITANI—began that changed both their lives.
In sunshine, rain and snow, Hattendorf returned to document Mirikitani’s drawings, trying to decipher the stories behind them. The tales spilled out in a jumble. Childhood picnics in Japan, lost citizenship, Pearl Harbor, thousands of Americans imprisoned in WWII desert camps, a boy who loved cats. As winter warmed to spring and summer, Hattendorf started to piece together the puzzle of Mirikitani's past. One thing is clear from his prolific sidewalk displays: he has survived terrible traumas and is determined to make his history visible through his art.
September 11, 2001 threw Mirikitani once again into a world at war and challenged Hattendorf to move from the role of witness to advocate. During the chaos following the collapse of the World Trade Center, she found herself unable to passively photograph this elderly man coughing in the toxic smoke, and invited him into her small apartment. In this uncharted landscape, the two unlikely roommates navigated the maze of the social welfare system, sought out lost family members and researched the artist’s painful past, finding eerie parallels to events unfolding around them in the present.
Blending beauty and humor with tragedy and loss, THE CATS OF MIRIKITANI is an intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing power of art.
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