Kati Kati left me feeling all the feels. Written and directed by Mbithi Masya (Just A Band) and Mugambi Thiga, it’s a movie that asks questions. What happens after we die, where do we go, who do we meet? What about unresolved issues from our life? What lies on the other side?
The movie begins when protagonist Kaleche (Nyokabi Gethaiga) find herself standing in a savannah plain. She has on a hospital gown, sandals and a chain with an owl pendant. she does not remember how she got there or what she is doing there.
She does not know she is dead.
For Kaleche, being dead means finding oneself in a lodge situated in the wild, in a room you didn’t book and people you didn’t plan your group holiday with. No, this is not some nightmarish version of World Ventures, it’s Kati Kati, a place between life and whatever it is that lies beyond. Hence the name Kati Kati which means ‘in the middle’ in Kiswahili. There are of course those who went in expecting a movie about Kati* but left the cinema spooked out of their living daylights. Maybe that’s why you should watch previews.
The inhabitants she meets are also peculiar, There is Thoma (Elsephan Njora) the self appointed group leader, friendly and accommodating, showing newbies the ropes and always holding a drink in hand. There is Mikey (Paul Ogola), the type of guy everyone knew in college, the bake** kid with cool sneaks only in Kati Kati, he also walks around in his graduation garb.
There is a weird guy (Peter King Maina) who stands behind bushes and does not want to be disturbed —for good reason, he is habouring a secret much worse than the white discolouration on his hand. No,It’s not vitiligo.
Kati Kati throws some curve balls for sure, while we are not surprised about Mikey’s presence there, we can’t help but wonder about the born again Christian, Grace (Fidelis Nyambura), who finds herself stuck there too. A powerful scene where she questions this, tells us that she is just as perplexed.
The truth is, nobody knows what lies on the other side and even in Kati Kati, they still move on to another place. Grieving, letting go and acceptance are just some of the underlying themes in the movie. Kati Kati explores taboo subjects like suicide and our lack of understanding of depression, alcoholism and the insidious way it is normalised in Kenya, tribalism and how nobody wins by choosing tribe, religion and the expectations that go with it. There are so many layers to this movie and the score which features a lot of locally produced movies fits like hand in glove.
My favourite scene must be the one where Kaleche’s doppelgänger dances in a way that beautifully reconciles her life and death. I’m really trying to avoid spoilers. Should you watch it? please do. Death may be a subject people would rather not dwell on but perhaps questioning it as Kati Kati does, will make us cherish life more. Also, look out for Mugambi Thiga (Nairobi Half Life‘s) hilarious cameo.
*Children’s game played in Kenya that involves tossing a home made ball between two kids while the players in the middle try to dodge it, if you get hit you are out.
**bake: pron: Ba-keh..Kenyan shorthand for basketball