Kati with an I

Kati with an I
Kati with an I is screen­ing on Monday February 14 at 8pm at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana.

Kati with an I (Director: Robert Greene): Shot mostly over a tumul­tu­ous three-day period lead­ing up to Kati’s high school gradu­ation, this mov­ing por­trait, dir­ec­ted by her older half-brother, offers an intim­ate win­dow into one par­tic­u­lar life at one par­tic­u­lar time and in the pro­cess achieves a beau­ti­ful sense of uni­ver­sal­ity. By cut­ting in older home movies of his sis­ter, Greene makes the documentarian’s cap­ture of passing time even more poignant. We see this con­fid­ent little girl grow­ing into a slightly less-con­fid­ent young woman on the verge of leav­ing her rural Alabama homet­own and her child­hood friends.

Her sense of panic mani­fests itself most keenly in her cling­ing attach­ment to boy­friend James, a sens­it­ive young man a few years older who’s con­tent to work at the local McDonald’s. After gradu­ation, she’s mov­ing to North Carolina to rejoin her par­ents and attend col­lege, and she’s insist­ent that James come with her. He’s clearly hes­it­ant to leave his own fam­ily, but pro­fesses his love with seem­ing sin­cer­ity. Yet her des­per­a­tion seems to para­lyze him, and he can’t prom­ise her when they’re going to leave. Graduation day approaches, and her par­ents are com­ing to see her. They want her to return with them, but she’s ter­ri­fied that if she leaves without James, he won’t fol­low.

The cam­era trails her every­where in these emo­tion­ally fraught days, as she enjoys pre­cious time with friends she may lose forever and as she pre­pares to face an unknown future as an “adult.” Seeing the shots of her as a younger child rein­forces the fact that in many ways, she hasn’t grown up. This rite of pas­sage seems an absurd and arti­fi­cial bor­der into an adult­hood she doesn’t want to enter just yet. Clinging to James is her adoles­cent equi­val­ent of cling­ing to a teddy bear. Her romantic illu­sions about James are intact but she seems aware that they’re pre­cari­ous. There are some abso­lutely lovely moments of them together, espe­cially when the two join in singing along to a CD of “their song” while rid­ing in the car. The pres­ence of her older brother, even unseen, cap­tur­ing these fleet­ing moments adds depth to the moment and makes it nos­tal­gic even as it’s hap­pen­ing. The whole film is suf­fused with a keen sense of these moments passing away even as they’re cap­tured.

Despite the fact that this is a deeply per­sonal film, and that the sound and video qual­ity are at times uneven, there is a lot to love about Kati with an I. Like a few other recent docs (October Country, Billy the Kid, 45365, The Way We Get By), this film shows us a part of America not usu­ally seen in the movies: rural, white, deeply reli­gious and con­ser­vat­ive, full of flawed but genu­ine people try­ing to get by. And by turn­ing the cam­era onto a mem­ber of his own fam­ily, Greene is express­ing some­thing of his own feel­ings about his roots. Although some may find the film uncom­fort­ably intrus­ive, it’s never exploit­at­ive. On the con­trary, Kati with an I is a power­ful expres­sion of love, from a brother to a sis­ter, from an adult to a child, and from an urban soph­ist­ic­ate to his rural roots. It’s mov­ing and lovely and par­tic­u­larly alive. Like Kati.

This entry was posted in Documentaries, Screeners and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Kati with an I

  1. Sounds inter­est­ing, sad and maybe a little frus­trat­ing. I’m pretty sure that any film about a kid grow­ing up and get­ting ready to move on will leave me a blub­ber­ing mess now that I have kids of my own.

    Even though the Kleenex may have to be passed around for this one, I’m going to keep my eyes open for a chance to see this one.

Comments are closed.