The Cats of Mirikitani (2006, Linda Hattendorf)

screened Wednesday April 11 2007 at Cinema Village, New York NY IMDb Hattendorf is an editor by trade, and it shows in this deftly woven tale of her evolving relationship with Jimmy Mirikitani, a septagenarian homeless street artist working and living in Hattendorf's lower Manhattan neighborhood.  Hattendorf takes into her apartment after 9/11 and discovers that Mirikitani has quite a history of his own.  Born in the US, educated in Japan, Mirikitani had ambitions to bring Japanese techniques to influence American art, until WWII kept him in an internment camp and provoked him to renounce his citizenship.  It's an amazing story, enhanced by the sensation of the camera bearing witness to this story as it unfolds on its own, both in the revelations of Mirikitani's past as well as the evolving relationship between Mirikitani and Hattendorf, approach a father-daughter-like bond.  This film opens a lot of questions about the role of the documentary filmmaker, since Hattendorf is shaping the story by intervening in her subject's life -- as if his destitute life was the raw material from which she constructs meaning and purpose for both of them.  This is a special kind of self-reflexivity that doesn't try at all to be clever despite its obvious metafictional layers.  There's almost no voiceover narration employed to move the story along; Hattendorf lets moments speak for themselves and function dramatically as well as expositionally.  In sum, this film is a fascinating exchange between cinema and life, and the end results are quite moving. yes/YES