Woman Who Has Lived in a Laundromat for 20 Years Talks Her Very Own Documentary

Photo Credit: Rugged Entertainment
May 19th, 2016


Documentaries seem to come out by the hundreds these days and one you shouldn’t pass right now is the newly released, Queen Mimi. This is a wonderful film, which by the way has a 9.4 rating on IMDB, that focuses on one woman’s love for life, people and most of all, happiness. Mimi became homeless 50 years ago and has since lived a life that you or I can not possibly imagine. She found a home eventually though, in a Santa Monica laundromat. Yes, that is correct, a laundromat.

She has been living between the washing machines for years and has since become a staple of the business. People come in from all over and talk to her and have her brighten their day. She has even befriended celebrities like Zach Galifianakis, a past patron of the laundromat, who has taken Mimi to Hollywood parties and red carpets. Both Mimi and director Yaniv Rokah sat down with me and told me all about their small film that is doing big, big things.

 

 


Nick Leyland from TheMovieNetwork.com: When you started shooting, did you just plan to keep shooting forever or did you feel like you finally had an ending? 

Yaniv: Yeah. I didn't really know what I was doing. I was a first-time filmmaker. It didn't even start as a film, I just wanted to capture Mimi's magic. And I started on my iPhone and then it kinda grew. Our friendship grew, the stories grew. She trusted me more and I was able to dig in more. And then I thought, "Oh, maybe I could make a short film," and then that's how it's continued. I gathered friends and professionals to help me out. From following her with my iPhone and some amateur cameras, all of a sudden I'm with a little crew and making a film. And so I think it was a long process because I needed to get to the bottom of everything and that's how long it took. I wasn't in it to make a film just to make a film. Mimi's one of my best friends and I realized that we needed to tell her story.

TMN: Mimi, how are you handling all this? 

Mimi: Very easy. I just try to be happy. I like people, so I talk to people every day. Even people I don't know.

TMN: How does it feel to watch yourself in this documentary? 

Mimi: Well, at first it was, "Oh, my gosh." "Here I am as big as life."

[laughter]

Mimi: Very interesting.

Yaniv: And now she wants a television series.

[laughter]

TMN: You've got a lot of positive reactions from people from this film, haven't you? 

Mimi: Yes. That's good.

TMN: People have always gravitated towards you, haven't they? 

Mimi: Yeah. That's because I like people and I'm willing to talk with them. I go to the laundromat every day to keep busy and help people learn how to wash their clothes. And I help the girls that work there fold their clothes. So I'm with people all day, every day, just to keep busy. And I would never stay at home and do nothing. Never.

TMN: Now, Yaniv, at what point did you say to yourself, "Okay, I think I have a film here," and you started putting the pieces into place and started getting more interviews and things like that? 

Yaniv: Obviously, [chuckle] when I started realizing that she was living on the streets, and then she was living in the laundromat, she was friends with Zach (Galifianakis) and it had gotten more and more serious. And so I went to my producer and I talked to him about it, and he helped me out, kinda shape up the story and that's when we went after Zach and I couldn't get him via the official channels. So I just went to Mimi one day and said, "Mimi, do you want a film? You need to ask Zach for an interview." And so she called him and then he agreed. And then the next day I got a call from Zach saying, "Mimi told me about your film, why don't you come over and we can chat?" I was able to get Zach's interview and it took it into a whole new level, and continued from there. We did a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds so we can put the puzzle together. And as we were editing, I had to go back, my editor would say, "We need more people talking about Mimi's past." or stuff like that. So, it was a lot of back and forth, and I think that's why it took so long. I wasn't making a film just for the sake of making a film. I was in it to tell her story and it took, for her, a long time to trust me and tell me all the secrets.

TMN: You have an interesting relationship with Zach (Galifianakis), don't you Mimi? 

Mimi: Oh yeah, he's my friend. I called him on Monday and he had me come over to his place. He has a three-year-old boy, oh, he's so cute. Oh, my Gosh. And so I got to play with him and we had a whole afternoon together. It was very nice.

TMN: What do you think is maybe your fondest memory with Zach (Galifianakis)? 

Mimi: Well, being able to go to his home and being with his child was really so nice. 

Yaniv: I love that she doesn't say the premier of The Hangover, or...

[laughter]

Mimi: Oh, no, no, no.

Yaniv: That's so awesome, Mimi.

[chuckle]

TMN: Now, Yaniv, was there anything in this film that you felt you had to leave out that you really wish you'd would've been able to include? 

Yaniv: I don't think so. Well, you know how it is, you go back and you, like, "Oh, maybe I should've cut this." Sometimes you just have to leave it be and you need to know you're done when you're done. I would do some things differently, but I also like the rawness of the film. It's not a perfect film, I know it, and I think it's part of its charm too. Many times I get frustrated with the way that something sounded, or didn't sound clear enough, or someone talking for too long about something, and I should've cut that out, or put this in. We as artists, we never know when it's done.

Yaniv: So, that's why you have to have a good team and say, "Okay, we are done. It's official." Let go and let God, and let the film do its thing, and it has been such a miraculous journey. The film keeps growing and growing and growing, it's totally beyond the control of me. For example, we showed it at the ArcLight in Hollywood as part of the Slam Dance Cinema Club. And in the audience there was a musician, a songwriter, and he got so inspired from the film he went home and wrote a song for Mimi called, "Celebrate Life." And then he contacted Grammy Award Nominee, I think winner or nominated, singer Deana Carter, and she agreed to record the song. And then they recorded this amazing song. And now we were able to put it back in the film. So, it's like... It's a never ending process, it's growing, and growing, and growing. I'm really so grateful, and at awe from this all. Our little film, our little Cinderella film.

[laughter]

Mimi: I know what you mean.

Rugged Entertainment

TMN: Mimi, were you interested in telling your story? 

Mimi: I was and I wasn't. But I'm glad I did.

Yaniv: Yeah, I think it was a delicate balance, she really loved the idea that a young man is following around with cameras and stuff, and she kept introducing me to people as her photographer.

[chuckle]

Yaniv: She didn't quite realize that everything she says is being printed and documented, and when I showed her the film for the first time, before we had the daughter, by the way, she got really like... At some part of the film, she got really upset. She's like, "Where did you get that? You need to get that out. I don't want anything, any mentioning of my daughter." She was trying to protect her and her private life, and I said, "Just watch the film. This is your film. It's your story. You're the director. You decide what stays in the film, but please watch the whole thing and get the perspective." And I think after she watched the entire film, she suddenly realized how vulnerable her life was, and why it is important to tell the story and to share everything.

TMN: Mimi, what do you think you would say to all the people out there that they might be struggling with some of the issues that you had in the past? 

Mimi: The main thing in your life is to try to be happy. I have this friend that calls everyday, "I'm depressed," and things like that. You don't have to be depressed. Look up and try to be happy, otherwise, people don't really like you when you're depressed. I got that. So, I've made up my mind that no matter what, I'd be happy, and I am.

Yaniv: And I really thought for the longest time that she was just not being insincere, I'm like, "How could you be so positive all the time with everything? You're living on a plastic chair in the laundromat behind washers." But I experienced it. It's her truth. Always look up. Stay positive. Keep busy. Life is a circle and what was, will change. It never stays the same. So, why are you looking back? 

TMN: Could you tell us a little bit about all that the awards that this film has won so far? 

Yaniv: It was really quite incredible. Again I had no expectations with anything, and all of a sudden I'm in South of France, Bahamas, Manhattan, winning all these awards. But first it kinda shocked me. But then when you make your own art, it's hard for you to be objective and see it for what it is. But then it's like you see how it changes people's perspective about life and about family, and about relationships and the elderly.

Yaniv: And then you realize, "Okay, I understand now. I understand why the film is getting a Spirit Award, and another, like the Human Spirit Award, and I get it. We need to celebrate Mimi's message which is: "Celebrate life. Live life to the fullest." I'm not so surprised anymore. I was very shocked at the beginning but she's inspired so many people. I had people in Florida saying, "Oh, I watched the film yesterday. Guess what? I'm flying to Santa Monica next week just to see Mimi and meet her in person."