On the eve of T/F I headed to the Columbia Public Library to see a documentary. Let’s just think of it as a warm-up for this highly anticipated, whirlwind of a weekend. And boy, am I glad I did.

Robert Greene, a T/F veteran director visiting from New York, came to screen his film Kati with an I. The film made its world premiere at the documentary festival in 2010.

Before the film started, Greene stood at the front of the room chatting with a black and gold clad couple. This was appropriate because the conversation consisted of him saying that Columbia was his favorite – the people, the festival, the whole town. He then left the room because Kati, the star, is his half sister and watching the documentary makes him emotional.

Kati with an I started being filmed with no set plan. There was an idea of the kinds of scenes Greene wanted, but he was unsure if it would turn into a movie or just be a cool graduation present for Kati.

The plot follows Kati over the course of two days leading up to her graduation and the day she graduates. Greene was not present for filming the first couple days. He knew that he just wouldn’t get anything interesting if he was in the picture. Footage taken by cinematographer (and Greene’s best friend) Sean Price Williams is juxtaposed with old home videos that Greene himself took during his college years. They show a young Kati singing into the camera or talking about how all the boys at school like her. It really gives the audience a better understanding of who Kati is and how to relate.

Further into watching, we get deeper into Kati’s relationship with her boyfriend James. He is older, and her goal during these last days in town is to get him to move to North Carolina with her and her parents.

While there are certainly many emotional moments, many laughs were had. Comic relief is provided in the form of a home with 28 dogs – and a ferret. The ferret plays a pivotal role. Greene himself admits the pet should have been credited.

Young love makes this movie incredibly relatable. Watching the couple sing “their song” in James’ truck while driving around just invokes memories of summer loves. Everyone remembers their first love, the giddy feeling that spreads a smile on your face whenever you are with them. The film transports you to a place where you can reminisce about your adolescence.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, because everyone should watch this film. This isn’t an advocacy movie, as Greene himself acknowledged, it’s about the littler issues that are universal – such things like thinking something is more important than anything in the whole wide world. Greene says these things won’t be fixed with a movie. “I don’t want to fix young love,” he says. That’s not his goal. It’s about the magic of sharing universal experiences.

Greene was awfully charismatic and it was definitely a cool opportunity to have him speak about a film just after watching it. He claims T/F “is the best documentary film festival in the world” because it has the perfect balance of big and small films from all parts of the world. He has friends working on some of the secret color screenings, and shared his excitement to serve on the Q&A panels for those films.

Moral of the story: get pumped for T/F and take advantage of having directors in the same place as their work.

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