In Hirokazu Koreeda's outstanding After Life, a group of people arrives at a lodge that serves as a station between life and death. These recently deceased people are asked to select one memory from their life. The workers of the lodge recreate and screen the selected happy memory, following which the people are transitioned to the afterlife, where they will forever live with the memory of their choice.
The situation of the characters in Mbithi Masya's Kati Kati is quite different. For starters, not everyone remembers their life. When Kaleche (Nyokabi Gethaiga) first arrives at the titular lodge, she has no recollection of her past and has no clue how she died. The other characters explain the situation to her, prompting her to run away from the lodge. It's a rookie mistake because you can't escape Kati Kati. The place is surrounded by an invisible wall. Run towards it, and you will hit yourself. Throw something toward it, and it will bounce back. Simply put, you are trapped.
There are two ways to move on from the lodge. You can either walk into the darkened nowhere (not recommended) or let go of something from your past. That "something" can be guilt, anger, or even a person. For instance, Mikey (Paul Ogola), a graduate and a basketball player, finds peace and transition when he leaves his mother. The characters must figure out what's holding them to the lodge if they want to move on.
Kati Kati is more open and cheerful than the lodge you see in After Life. There is a swimming pool, good food, and a timetable that informs us that the characters also play hide and seek. You can lie outside in the garden on a lazy afternoon or share your feelings during support group-like meetings. Moreover, you can request anything from a piano to new clothes by simply writing whatever you want on an envelope. Why would anyone want to leave this paradise? It sounds so comfortable living in Kati Kati, right?
Well, the joy is not permanent. The longer you stay, the whiter your skin will become. Eventually, you will turn into a zombie-like creature. Everybody needs to urgently sort out their situation, though this imperativeness is missing from the tone of this film. Kati Kati has a meditative pace as if it knows its characters have suffered enough and doesn't want them to be burdened by the weight of their circumstances. It wants them to take their time, but it also wants them to move on to a peaceful existence.
The whitening of the skin is just one of the many ways to show that these dead people are also vulnerable. They can drown in the water and "die," and they can also undergo mental stress. Some characters are literally haunted by the ghosts of their past. While others jump around in frustration when thinking about a mistake that might have led them (and someone else) to this point. The characters judge others based on the length of their clothes, get desperate, and sometimes pray to god and ask for his help. These people might be dead, but they are still very much human. Even after facing the worst moments, they talk about hope and show compassion towards each other. They forgive, remain optimistic, and convert Kati Kati into heaven.
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