WEEKEND: ‘The Cats of Mirikitani’ film shares man’s inspiring story

PORT ANGELES — When Linda Hattendorf met a homeless old man on a street corner near her apartment, she didn’t plan on making a movie about him.

Then she learned a little about his past. And then their city, New York, was attacked Sept. 11, 2001. Together, they watched as a tragic, toxic cloud engulfed lower Manhattan.

Hattendorf took Jimmy Mirikitani in and made the documentary film that has since won audience awards from New York City to Paris to Tokyo.

91st birthday

“The Cats of Mirikitani,” an ode to the man who celebrated his 91st birthday in June, will screen inside Linkletter Hall at Olympic Medical Center, 939 Caroline St., at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Admission to the showing, presented by the Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics clinic, is $5.

“Cats” tells the true tale of a man who grew up in Hiroshima, Japan, and who emigrated to the United States, only to be detained at the Tulelake, Calif., internment camp for 31⁄2 years during World War II.

Then, on Aug. 6, 1945, he lost many of his family members in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

At Tulelake, Mirikitani painted; through the decades, he kept painting. It was his art, displayed on the streets of Soho, that first captivated Hattendorf.

The filmmaker, who is the sister of Peninsula Coll­ege film studies professor Bruce Hattendorf, said her ongoing challenge is to “find the story that needs to be told.”

Mirikitani’s life story was that.

Through “Cats,” Hattendorf learned about a chapter of American history that wasn’t in her school books: the internment camps where tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were held during the war.

She also learned about resilience and that it’s never too late for life to change for the better.

As Hattendorf has shown her movie around the globe, she’s seen audiences laugh in the same places and cry in the same places.

“It’s a universal story,” she said, “about hope, hope and trust.”

Mirikitani has his own apartment now “and a huge crowd of friends,” Hattendorf said.

“The film deals with the deep trauma of war . . . but it is also about the healing power of community and art.”


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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