Ming Of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys In The Air

Film, Documentaries
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Ming Of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys In The Air

A fascinating true tale of animal welfare becomes an annoyingly pretentious doc

Stay on your toes, New Yorkers – your neighbours are up to some weird shit. Hot on the heels of eye-opening documentary ‘The Wolfpack’, about a family of kids confined to their Lower East Side apartment, comes this story of a Harlem man who kept a full-size Bengal tiger (named Ming) and an alligator (named, imaginatively, Al) in his five-bedroom tenement flat. It’s a fascinating tale, told almost first-person by Antoine Yates, the self-confessed animal lover who kept these predators contained.

But ‘Ming of Harlem’ isn’t satisfied with simply recounting Antoine’s experiences – and that’s where the wheels come off. Lengthy, wordless scenes of a tiger padding around a chipboard recreation of Antoine’s apartment are all very well – we get a strong sense of the animal’s confinement. But then an Icelandic poet starts reciting awful, sub-Blake tosh about proud predators and ‘the living Gods of fertile devourings’, and it all gets embarrassingly pretentious. Oh for a simple, straight-up doc.

By: Tom Huddleston

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Release details

Rated: U
Release date: Friday July 22 2016
Duration: 71 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Phillip Warnell
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