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Movie Review: The Cats of Mirikitani
(Shown as part of the New York Documentary Competition of the Tribeca Film Festival)

Alternate Title: Ya Gotta Have ‘Art

Story: We’re introduced to Jimmy Mirikitani, a homeless street artist, who at the age of 80 years old is still in love with his work. In all kinds of weather, he’s outdoors drawing pictures. When the weather’s raw, he’s drawing his pictures from behind the plastic curtain of a Korean green-grocer’s on 6th Ave. He’s befriended by a film editor who admires one of his pictures of a cat, and Jimmy’s story unfolds through their friendship. Without revealing too much, it’s an incredible story of the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the ability of people to “go under the radar” and become invisible in our society, and the creative force of an artist.

Acting: This was a documentary, so the characters were themselves – we got to hear them talk about their lives, their views of politics and government, and about how the world may or may not have changed that much in the last 60 years.

Predilection: I like documentaries. As Jimmy tells his story, it’s one that seems to have meaning on several different levels. There’s the story about the impact of government on people’s lives and how it relates to what’s happening in this country today. And, there’s the story about an artist and how he manages to live and continue the work that he loves.

Critters: A charming calico cat has a featured role. The film might not have been made if it weren't for the director’s and Jimmy’s love of cats.

Food: Cooking and eating are bonding experiences that help the story to unfold.

Blatant Product Placement: None that I could see.

Soundtrack: The documentary had an original score that worked well with the story.

Opening Titles: Very basic, as one would expect for a low budget documentary.

Theater Audience: Since it was the Tribeca Film Festival, the audience included the film makers and their friends and family. Jimmy, himself, was sitting right behind me. There was an interesting question and answer session with the director and producer at the end of the film.

Squirm Scale: I squirmed a little at the beginning when we were introduced to how Jimmy was living on the streets.

Drift Factor: Didn't drift at all.

Predictability Level: Jimmy is a unique character with an interesting story and a candid view of life.

Tissue Usage: There were definitely a few scenes that caused outbreaks of the sniffles.

Oscar Worthy: Probably won’t appear on the Oscar’s documentary radar screen, but who knows?

Big Screen or Rental: Thus far, it’s only booked for several showings at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here’s the web site for the film showings if you’re interested http://www.tribecafilmfestival.org/tixSYS/2006/filmguide/program.php?ProgCode=CATSO A shortened version will also appear on PBS in the 2006/2007 season.

Length: About an hour and a half.

LOBO HOWLS: Well, I’m not Judy, so I can’t really give it Lobo Howls. But, since cats play a central role in the movie, I’ll give it 8 meows.