Cats of Mirikitani

March 6, 2007

Jimmy, a Japanese American who was born in Sacramento and raised in Hiroshima, lives by the motto "make art not war." Filmmaker and neighbor Linda Hattendorf began following him with her camera and small crew, probably not knowing what they would find out in the process.

What unfolds in the film, and in real life, can be described as serendipitous, heart-wrenching and beautiful.

It turns out that Jimmy is related to San Francisco's former poet laureate Janice Mirikitani - but that's just the beginning. A big piece of Jimmy's story is about his and his family's internment at Tule Lake, unveiling just one out of more than a hundred thousand stories and told in an original way.

What I love about the film is that it is about discovery, about the love of life. Over the course of shooting the film, Hattendorf also begins to play a bigger role in Jimmy's life, appearing on screen and taking him into her apartment after 9/11. She becomes his advocate, helping him apply for SSI and housing benefits.

Documentaries at the film festival never seem to disappoint, and this is yet another one that you'll leave the theater feeling not only that you got your money's worth, but that you'll want to tell everyone about and wish more people could see.

Go to the film's website or the film festival's website to read more about the film.

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The Cats of Mirikitani plays with short documentary Pilgrimage, dir. Tad Nakamura, at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival on:

+ Saturday, March 17th, 12 p.m., AMC Van Ness, San Francisco
+ Sunday, March 24th, 12 p.m., Camera 12 Cinemas, San Jose

For information about the film festival, visit


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.