ACHTUNG BERLIN Blog 2017: Kati Kati

     |    Thursday, der 27. April 2017

„After all, who are we to question the laws of the Afterlife?“

Stories about souls in Limbo are nothing new. There’s the 30s movie “Outward Bound” with Leslie Howard (based on a ‘20s play of the same name); a John Garfied movie from the 40s, “Between Two Worlds”; a well known Off-Broadway play by Bruce Jay Friedman called “Steambath” and at least one episode of the Twilight Zone. And if we thought about it a bit, we could surely come up with more. But this takes nothing away from Nigerian filmmaker Mbithi Masya’s film, “Kati Kati”, it merely means he is working with a time-honored and powerful archetype. And, I should add, I’m just a sucker for these kinds of stories.

Unlike these above examples where the big denouement is the realization that the characters are actually dead, this story makes that part clear from the start. Not that that means there aren’t still questions that need to be answered. And in the case of new arrival Kachele, the question is not only how or why, but also who – she knows her name but remembers nothing of her past. The others seem not quite so in the dark, but as Kachele keeps finding, there’s a limit to what they are willing to share. And as we all find out, a specific reason why they won’t.

But Kachele slowly begins to blend in, and forms relationships with Thoma, who seems to be her guide, Mikey who she saves from drowning – ignoring the question of if a dead person can actually drown, and a silent man who everyone warns her to stay away from.

On one hand, “life” in the land of Kati Kati is not all that bad. Though surrounded by an empty landscape – which is in turn surrounded by an invisible, and impenetrable, wall – its inhabitants live together in a sunny tropical community of well furnished resort-like cabins built around an attractive courtyard and dotted with palm trees. They eat buffet breakfasts, they drink highballs, they play charades and basketball, they even have a self-help therapy group. And if they want anything, they only need to leave a note in a suggestion box and the requested item appears the next morning.

Time is strangely refracted, but it’s not unlimited. The one big cloud – arguably symbolized by mysterious re-occurring storms – hanging over everyone’s heads is that at some point they will each be called to “move on”. They don’t know where, or when, and only at the last minute do they – and we – know why. And thinking about it later, I realized the reason was actually a bit different than I first thought.

The thing I most responded to was the movie’s atmosphere – everything that happens has an underlying aura of urgency that’s at once uncomfortable at the same time beautifully transcendental, as if everything that everyone says or does, however insignificant, is a matter of life and death. As, of course, it is. And it’s also a matter of mystery where nothing is really understood and nothing completely makes sense. In a movie we want things to make sense but – and I know I’ve quoted this before, but this is a good occasion to do it again – “being able to explain everything is over rated”. After all, who are we to question the laws of the Afterlife?
Andrew Horn

Andrew Horn, Berlin-based filmmaker (The Nomi Song, We Are Twisted Fucking Sister!, The Big Blue), producer (East Side Story) and writer, is on the look out for interesting – and not so interesting – movies at this year’s edition of Achtung Berlin – new berlin film award.

Films from past editions of the festival can be found in the Achtung Berlin channel on realeyz.de

Ahorn