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The Cats of Mirikitani (film)

DVD cover. Courtesy of Lucid Dreaming
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

An award-winning documentary film from 2006 about a homeless Nisei artist named Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani and the friendship that develops with filmmaker Linda Hattendorf on the streets of New York.

When Hattendorf first encounters 80-year-old Mirikitani in 2001, she is charmed by his paintings of cats but unaware of his complex history. Over the seasons, she returns to Mirikitani and learns about his life in scattered chapters: his childhood in Hiroshima, time spent living at Minidoka and Tule Lake , two of ten American concentration camps during World War II, and his love of cats and painting. Following the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Hattendorf finds Mirikitani in his usual spot, coughing amidst the fumes, dust, and despair that hangs over the city. She offers for him to move into her apartment with her, thus beginning the second act of a complex relationship of trust, compassion, and ego=. With Hattendorf's unwavering support, Mirikitani is able to locate his only surviving immediate relative and discovers that he is also related to San Francisco poet Janice Mirikitani . Hattendorf arranges for reunions with both women. When she attempts to track down Mirikitani's social security card and housing benefits, she learns why she is unable to procure one: Mirikitani lost his American citizenship in a chain of events that began when he refused to comply with a loyalty questionnaire that was distributed to camp inmates. Only after Wayne M. Collins fought to reinstate citizenship for the Japanese Americans who had given it up under coercion, was Mirikitani able to remain in the country.

The documentary film has received numerous accolades, including the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival 2006, Best Documentary at the Durban Internation Film Festival, Frida Award for Best New Director at the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival, Audience Award at the Paris Cinema Film Festival, and Best Picture( Japanese Eyes category) at the Tokyo International Film Festival, among others. In 2007, The Cats of Mirikitani was aired nationally on PBS as part of the Independent Lens documentary film series.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

Might also like Days of Waiting: The Life and Art of Estelle Ishigo (1990); Harsh Canvas: The Art and Life of Henry Sugimoto ; Ruth Asawa: Of Forms and Growth (1978)

Media Details
Release Date 2006
Runtime 74 minutes
Director Linda Hattendorf
Producer Linda Hattendorf
Music Joel Goodman
Cinematography Linda Hattendorf
Editing Keiko Deguchi
Studio Lucid Dreaming
For More Information

For More Information

Official website: .

The Cats of Mirikitani on Independent Lens website.

Magee, Seana K. "PBS Hawaii to Air 'The Cats of Mirikitani.'" Hawaii Herald , May 4, 2007, 9.



Bass, Rick . Orion , January/February 2008.

Catsoulis, Jeannette. " Painting Through the Pain. " New York Times , March 1, 2007. .

Meaney, Jake . PopMatters , May 5, 2008.

Mori, Daryl . Discover Nikkei , July 16, 2008.

Omori, Chizu. "Filmmaker Studies Her Subject Closely." International Examiner , April 18–May 1, 2007, 12.

Page, Janice. " With Filmmaker's Helping Hand, a Destitute Artist Finds Salvation. " Boston Globe , August 23, 2007.

Scheib, Ronnie . Variety , April 26, 2006.

Shannon, Jeff. " Homeless Artist Finds a Happy Ending in 'The Cats of Mirikitani.' " Seattle Times , April 20, 2007.

Shoji, Kaori . The Japan Times , September 7, 2007.