At the “6 years (almost) and counting” panel at Worldcon one of the things we discussed was the kind of stories that people tell about events such as September 11th. There have been a lot of documentaries and fiction films about the tragedy now, and some of them have been more successful than others.
One woman in the audience suggested that there had not been any personal stories created, on a small scale, of the people who lived in the area and were hugely affected by the destruction of their neighbourhood.
As it happens I remembered from the programme of this year’s Galway Film Fleadh that such a documentary had been made. It was one of the films I wanted to watch at the Fleadh, but couldn’t get to it in the end due to a scheduling conflict.
The Cats of Mirikitani is written and directed by Linda Hattendorf. Here’s the blurb from the Galway Film Fleadh web site:
“Make art not war” is Jimmy Mirikitani’s motto. Born in Sacramento and raised in Hiroshima, by 2001 this 85-year-old Japanese-American artist is living on the streets of New York, with the twin towers of the World Trade Center ominously anchoring the horizon behind him. When a neighbouring filmmaker stops to ask about Mirikitani’s art, a friendship begins that will change both of their lives.
On the afternoon of September 11 2001, the director, Linda finds Mirikitani in the park near her apartment coughing and sick from the clouds of debris that have consumed the city. She invites him into her home. In this uncharted landscape, the two navigate the maze of social welfare, seek out family and friends, and research Jimmy’s painful past.
What begins as a simple portrait of one homeless man will become a rare document of daily life in New York in the months leading up to September 11. Blending beauty and humour with tragedy and loss, The Cats of Mirikitani is an intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing power of art.
At the panel I couldn’t remember the name of the documentary, so I wanted to mention it now – just in case the woman that raised the subject reads this entry.