It may be unclear what happens to us when we die, but I would like to think that my soul will end up on a lush resort like the one in Mbithi Masaya’s Kati Kati. Offering an interesting meditation on life and death, the film takes a novel premise and weaves it into a rather hypnotic cinematic experience.

Awakening in Kati Kati, a resort in a barren wasteland, Kaleche (Nyokabi Gethaiga) has no recollection of how she got there. When advised by the small group of individuals who reside there that she is in fact dead, Kaleche finds it difficult to adapt to this new reality. Unable to remember anything from her life prior, Kaleche cannot help but notice that everyone at the facility seems to be both haunted by their past and nervously awaiting their future. Several of the previous guests have been mysteriously disappearing in the night.

Whether the taken have proceeded to the next stage of the afterlife is unclear, but it seems that everyone has their own expiration date. Well everyone except for Thoma (Elsaphan Njora), the unofficial leader who may know more about the land and Kaleche than he is letting on.

Produced by Tom Tykwer, Kati Kati is a film that effectively evokes a sense of mysticism while still being a stirring character study. The intimate nature of the world building in the film, where everything including the food on your plate has a time limit, is wonderful. Though the common assumption is that time is endless when it comes to the afterlife, Kati Kati presents a more chilling interpretation of this.

By setting the story in one location, Masaya gives the film and its inhabitants a claustrophobic feel. Like patients on a medical ward, the group must learn to rely on each other while navigating their own past regrets. Kati Kati does not provide many answers, but they are not needed. It is the questions that the film raises about the nature of death, and what happens to our souls, that makes the film such a wonderful experience.

Tuesday, March 5, 9 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

This review was original published as part of our TIFF 2016 coverage. Kati Kati is screening as part of the Goethe Films: One Fine Day – Africa Now retrospective.