Film

Kati With an I

Blessed with perspective and poise, Kati's responses to the world around her repeatedly suggest both affection and disbelief, openness and a hope for more control.


Kati with an I

Director: Robert Greene
Cast: Kati Genthner, James Holsemback, Bridgett Taylor, Brian Genthner, Tomi Genthner
Rated: NR
Studio: 4th Row Films
Year: 2010
US date: 2011-04-08 (Masyles Cinema)
Website
Trailer

Editor's note: Kati With an I is opening at Maysles Cinema, as part of its Documentary in Bloom series, followed by a Q&A with Greene on April 8th and 9th. The film is showing with Peggy Awesh's 2009 short, The Third Body, which considers intersections of religion and science in their contemplations of bodies and desires.

"I love the way that you're the one I dream of," says Kati Genthner. She's reciting a poem she wrote for her boyfriend James, you're looking at a front porch. Her voice is grainy, a telephone recording, sharing the story of her all-committed love. "The first time he heard it," she reports, "he actually cried."

It's the last day of high school as Kati With an I begins, and Kati's about to graduate. She's also agreed to let her half-brother, the documentarian Robert Greene, and the cinematographer Sean Williams, follow her with a camera as she prepares not only to leave school, but also to leave Piedmont, Alabama. During the last months of her senior year, she's been living with a friend, Bridgett. When her dad Brian lost his job, he and her mother Tomi moved back to North Carolina. "We all thought," Kati explains, "The best thing for me was to stay in Alabama and finish off the last 82 days of school. And that's how it all happened."

For the few moments the camera spends in it, the girls' bedroom appears both cramped and expansive, a Twilight poster and a ferret in a cage, a cluttered makeup table and a wooden tchotchke hutch. The fact that you barely see these details in the first scene -- early morning, when shadows fill the room -- suggests the film's frequently impressionistic effect. A collection of closely observed details and tight mobile frames, the movie is part verité observation and part Kati's diary, that is, her all-consuming concerns, her limited views.

This structure allows for you to see variously and unclearly, but also precisely and deeply, as Kati describes her experience and also performs it. So, as Kati and the couple-of-years younger Bridgett are parting ways, she receives a note from Bridgett, something like an appreciation of their friendship. And as Kati reads it out loud to James -- he's driving them to the mall -- you witness a shift, away from the closeness of the girls in Bridgett's room and to another sort of understanding, at least on Kati's part. Despite their occasional disagreements, Kati reads out loud. "It's become a great experience for me... You have made one of the biggest impacts on my life." Her primary confidant now is James, 21 years old, McDonald's employee, and son of a truck driver. He nods as Kati confesses, "It made me cry when I first read it," and says, "I'm about to tear up myself." She looks at him: "Seriously?"

Blessed with perspective and poise, Kati's responses to the world around her repeatedly suggest both affection and disbelief, openness and a hope for more control. This sensibility is visible in footage from Kati's childhood, her direct address at once fresh and self-aware. "None of the boys admit that they like me," she says, "But I can tell." Or again, "I think school's cool, I think being in school is better than summer vacation." Now that she's older, Kati is no less self-possessed, even as pressures mount.

Like so many high school graduates, Kati's feelings are mixed. While she's glad to be getting out of the small Christian community in Piedmont (at graduation rehearsal, the pale-blue-gowned participants are reminded to choose Jesus Christ: "I tell you, it's not an easy choice," says a pastor, "because life is not easy, life is full of difficult, non- trivial choices"), she's also apprehensive to leave the life she knows. Splashing in the pool with her girlfriends or watching James play videogames, she's comfortable and confident. "I don’t know why I'm wearing these stupid pants," he complains, as if for the camera. "Because you love me," Kati smiles, "And you know I like those pants."

After high school, when she moves back with her parents for the summer and then goes to college (Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte), Kati means to have James along. When her parents suggest he might not be ready to move with her, she insists otherwise. Dad worries that he's working at McDonalds ("He wants to become a meteorologist," Kati protests) while Tomi suggests there are, after all, a couple of McDonald's where they live, and she knows one of the managers.

Kati puts the choice to James in terms she understands. They sit on a motel porch, her parents in a room behind them: the camera peers at them, the night wrapped around them. Percieving that James is reluctant to leave his mother ("She's holding on to you with, like, a iron fist"), Kati asks, "What's more important? Going and make something better of your life and actually being in a real city or living in Alabama, in Piedmont, where it's okay to have sex with your mother?" He pauses and sighs and you get the feeling that she's stuck.

But you also get the feeling that James -- who looms so large in her thinking now -- isn't so crucial to Kati's experience. Uneven and earnest, subtle and beguiling, Kati With an I reflects her experience without judging it, and suggests a context without overstating it.

9

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image