By Amber Roniger
Break out your Prada Escada, monogrammed hankies, ladies, this one is a real tearjerker. I was fortunate to see “THE CATS OF MIRIKITANI” last year as winner of the audience award at Tribeca Film Festival. It was a blind selection – at the time we purchased the tickets, the votes weren’t yet counted and so I just prayed we wouldn’t get stuck watching some asinine documentary on water beetles. I’m pretty sure the last time I was this excited about cats was, well… at “Cats,” and it’s been a little minute since that (yah, I just dated myself). Not to get all telle-novella on you and gurrrrl, you know how much I hate to get all weepy in public, but seriously your emotions can run much weirder and wilder at the viewing of a film than you might imagine (okay, fine, mine). Myself and companion (an admitted cat-lady), who normally must be checked, like every five minutes, to be sure she’s not in the snooze-zone, were riveted and on the edge of our seats the entire flick. And of course by the end, we were both bawling like town criers, along with everyone else in the theatre, I might add. And now greater New York City is finally privy to the privilege of seeing this stunning film. Can you tell I’m psyched to break this news to you?!?!
Not to get all serious and psychobabble, but this little film that could holds so much weighty content: love, hatred, politics, racism, history, loss, longing, life, death, war, remembrance, admiration, creativity, art and most importantly, friendship, that it’s almost impossible to give a valid Reader’s Digest version (oh God, I’m choking up as I edit this). But I will give it the old Girl Scout’s try. “The Cats of Mirikitani” is the very personal story of a singularly brilliant artistic soul, 80-year-old Jimmy Mirikitani, who was living on the streets of SoHo and selling his beautiful drawings, mostly of cats, but also of personal experiences. He was homeless until the filmmaker, Linda Hattendorf, bought one of his cat drawings and this is where our story really begins to unfold. And frankly, I don’t want to give much more of the narrative away because I want you on the edge of your seat and emotions as I and Cat-Lady were. But sufficed to say, you will see the past and the present fold unto itself on the screen until the wounds of Jimmy’s history (and we’re talking stemming back to WWII, heeeavy stuff) are eventually healed because of the kindness and empathy of Linda, and Jimmy’s willingness to let go. And honestly, from here on my lips are sealed. It’s simply too visual and emotional a journey not to let you experience it for yourself firsthand.
But if you’ve ever trusted my sage judgment about anything, go see this movie. Not only will your mind and heart expand in unanticipated ways, but you’ll get that same goosebumpy feeling you had when you were 10 and heard “Magical Mr. Mestopheles” for the first time. Truly, it’s that magical. And you’ll also be supporting New York independent filmmaking, which as we all know, is a noble and valiant cause (in my little filmy world). In the vein of “Dark Days,” and Michael Moore, “The Cats of Mirikitani” successfully bridges the gap between art and action, and that t’aint an easy thing to do. Believe me, I’ve tried! Inspiring, heart wrenching, touching and poignant beyond measure, you’ll be simultaneously sobbing and cheering, which is straight-up socially awkward and emotionally schizo. And determined to make a difference in the world.