Sunday, April 1, 2007
The Cats of Mirikitani
I am so used to homeless people on the streets in San Francisco, and there are thousands of them given any time. They become invisible. I am sure every one of them has a story, but I never take any effort to find out from any of them.
However, filmmaker Linda Hattendorf did something remarkable. She befriended with a street artist Jimmy Mirikitani, in her neighborhood in New York City, and made a documentary "The Cats of Mirikitani." During the process, she made a difference in Mr. Mirikitani's life. Now, through this documentary, Mr. Mirikitani's story is touching our lives, alright, I speak for myself, my life.
Born in Sacramento and grew up in Hiroshima, Jimmy Mirikitani was put in internment camps during World War II by the US government, and was stripped away his US citizenship simply because he is a Japanese descent. Many years later, in his 80s, he was homeless living on the streets of New York City. He self-claims to be the "Grand Master Artist," surviving by selling his art work, including paintings of cats.
He didn't want to seek help from the government such as the social security because he lost the faith in the US government for what has done to him and the civilians in Hiroshima during World War II.
After 9/11, with the help from Linda Hattendorf, Jimmy Mirikitani is off the streets and started a new life, and continues on his mission of "making art not war."
Despite his ordeal during World War II and his hardship living on the streets, he seems more cheerful than an average American driving on a freeway. The US government literally destroyed his life, but what we see is how cheerful he is most of the time and how he keeps up his hope about the future.
Mr. Mirikitani's charismatic charm is irresistible, both in the film and in person. After the screening of this film, during the Q&A section, Mr. Mirikitani, at the age of 86, came down the isle and volunteered to sing a song to the audience in Japanese. His voice is solid and projects how strong he is, physically and emotionally after all these years.
To me, the documentary is profoundly moving not only because it tells a fascinating story, but also because through Jimmy Mirikitani's story and his art works, I learned history, peace, and humanity.
My rating: 9 out of 10.
P.S. A shorter version of this documentary will be shown on "Independent Lens" on PBS on May 10, 2007.
P.P.S. After the screening of "The Cats of Mirikitani," I feel compelled to take a picture with this inspirational 86-years-old "grand master artist." I normally don't do the "V" sign, but I made an exception this time to follow his trademark.