This last week, I got a text from Andrea, “I just watched The Cats of Mirikitani and it made ME cry.” Since you don’t know my relationship with Andrea, you probably think this text represents some kind of information about her life or about a film recommendation. It isn’t. It is more along the lines of a dare.
You see, I am a crier. I cry during most films and much else in life and art. It doesn’t take a great artist to get me to laugh, but it takes no artist at all to get me to cry. Andrea, on the other hand, prides herself on her steely exterior strengthened with a withering sarcasm that has been known to bring real men (e.i. not me) to tears. If Andrea cried during a film, she suggests, I may go catatonic for a week.
But is that really true? Isn’t it the case that there are only certain things that can make it through her armor? I know things that will make her cry. So I was not sure she was right.
As I got ready to watch the film, I became more convinced that this film was not going to be the sob-fest that Andrea had indicated. Old homeless artists and concentration camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II: I’d seen it all before. I started watching the film. And I didn’t even make it to the credits, which are less than two minutes into the film, without crying.
The Cats of Mirikitani
The film tells the story of 81 year old Jimmy Mirikitani, a homeless artist who earned his dignified living selling drawings on the street in New York City. After the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11, he was left alone on the street inside a cloud of toxic debris. The filmmaker, Linda Hattendorf, took him in and tried to get him some help. This turned out to be harder than you would think, because Mirikitani didn’t want any help from a United States government that he thought of as evil for what it did to him and hundreds of thousands of other Japanese-Americans. Slowly, Mirikitani relented and his life got better.
The first half of this film is very sad, in that “cry your eyes out” way so beloved by people of my ilk. The second half of the film, however, is very uplifting, but in that “cry you eyes out” way so beloved by people of my ilk.It speak to the resilience of the human soul (in that “cry your eyes out” way). And the story is inspiring even after it stops. Mirikitani seems to be doing very well to this day. According to the official website of the film:
I’d say more, but I think I’m going to cry.
The library has the Samurai Trilogy boxed set. I should have it next week. I may not be able to see the San Francisco Opera’s production of Don Giovanni, but life still has its pleasures.
 I find it interesting that many people don’t like labels like “Japanese-American” or “Afro-American.” But when a country uses their heritage against people, are we really just supposed to pretend that such distinctions don’t exist and aren’t used in negative ways? Are we to pretend, like Stephen Colbert’s character, that we just don’t see color?