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Documentary Filmmaker Linda Hattendorf

Monday, September 8th, Filmmaker Linda Hattendorf will be on campus to introduce, screen and conduct a Q&A on her award-winning 2006 documentary The Cats of Mirikitani (running time: 75 minutes) at 7:00 p.m. in Watson Forum.

At its most basic level, the film is about Hattendorf’s evolving friendship with a homeless, elderly, Japanese-American street artist, Jimmy Mirikitani, who was born in California, raised in Hiroshima, and then returned to the U.S. in the 1930’s, at age 18, to escape Japan’s growing militarism.  The filmmaker skillfully weaves this modest story of friendship with the convergence, in Jimmy’s life, of three historical events and three different geographical locations-- the dropping of the atomic bomb which killed most of his family and friends (Hiroshima), forced internment during WW II (Tule Lake, California), and the terrorist attacks (New York City).  After 9/11, historical events unfold for Jimmy with a chilling familiarity. 

Seeing the artist coughing from the toxic fumes generated by the collapse of the twin towers, the filmmaker invites him to live in her cramped New York apartment.  We observe their relationship unfolding as their friendship and trust grows; as she tries to navigate the welfare system; and as he, distrusting the government that had betrayed him during the war, resists her attempts to find housing for him.  Their interactions are by turns funny and poignant—but never sentimental.  It’s a complicated story about ethical decision-making, loss, separation, homelessness, identity, betrayal, political injustice, art’s potentially healing function, community, memory and the confrontation of cultures, histories, and generations.

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