Friday, July 17, 2009

The Cats of Mirikitani

I belong to a group called Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society-VNCS. The group consists of mostly 2nd generation Japanese Canadians, but there are some first generations, and Canadians, and Japanese, like me.

Thursday night was apparently their 1st "Movie Night"-I became a member fairly recently, so I did not know this was their first time. Anyhow, I posted the info on my Mixi(Japanese SNS) but nobody seemed too interested. So, I went by myself.

We watched two movies. First one was very short documentary on Akebono cherry blossom tree in Vancouver's Oppenheimer Park. The tree was planted by first generation Japanese settlers in Vancouver area.

Second one was "The Cats of Mirikitani" another documentary on Jimmy Mirikitani, a homeless artist in NYC. Filmmaker Linda Hattendorf befriends him, and after the 911 she finds him still drawing on the street, and invites him into her aprtment to live.

Jimmy is 80 year old Japanese American-he keeps saying "Born in Sacramento, California" which means that he is an American. He is an artist, and throughout the film we can see many many pictures done by him.

Through Linda's questions to Jimmy through the camera, we learn little by little about him.

At first I thought this was just a "hey, let's get to know this homeless guy" kinda film. Well, I don't know there's any other movie like that, but, I didn't really EXPECT to find out a lot of exciting/important details about this Jimmy guy. I know this sounds completely rude, but at first I thought he is one of those cheerful, but a little looney street people.

I'm happy to say that I was wrong, and we learn that he was in a internment camp during the war. He has almost phogoraphic memory of where he lived and he draws pictures of the camp again and again.

I don't want to give away too much details of the film as I think you should really watch it, but Linda tries to help him get a social security number and she starts sort of a research as to what happened to Jimmy's identity and his family. Then we learn a lot about this artist.

I'm a bit embarrased but I cried watching this-considering the night's crowd was consisted of many 1st and 2nd gereneration Japanese I am sure many did too. Jimmy talk about how terrible it is to be sent to the camp and lose his family. He also talks about friends who died there...

I am not a Canadian Japanese, I wasn't born here. I'm Japanese and came to Canada merely 10 years ago and sometimes it's considered a long time. But I'm ashamed to say I know almost nothing about the
history of the first generation Japanese people who came to Vancouver area. And this film made me realize that.

I highly recommend this film.