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Film Review: KATA
by Karen Pecota

Filmmaker James Latimer directs, produces and co-writes with Conan Amok a fantastical journey of a female champion in the sport of kata karate in their short film KATA. Latimer and Amok take the audience into the mind of 13-year-old Mahiro Takano. She is a long-time undefeated national competitor facing her greatest enemy.

Latimer has been connected to the Japanese culture since he was a child, immersed into martial arts films and role-playing games (RPGs). Latimer has lived in Japan for the past ten years and says he is just as connected to Japan as when he was growing up. He says, "Now fully bilingual and collaborating as a filmmaker with Japanese people, day by day I'm closer to understanding and finding my own way to package and repurpose the magic that I connected to originally."

Latimer notes, "KATA is the 3rd short film documentary highlighting young talented Japanese people who embrace an aspect of traditional Japanese culture and how they apply it to a modern lifestyle." He adds, "Kata, the form of Karate will feature in the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo." Latimer hopes there will be a new surge to the understanding of the sport, as well as a growing appreciation for its dedicated athletes."

Latimer and Amok use actual visual metaphors to bring to life Mahiro's real story but not without many interviews trying to understand what is at her true core mentally, spiritually and physically to compete at such a level of intensity. In order to draw in a wider audience to Mahiro's training, Latimer and Amok create a fantastical background to portray Mahiro's love for kata karate that is honest and accurate according to Mahiro. It's a combination of fantasy and reality that one might expect from delightful Japanese art.

Latimer calls KATA a character study of a "bright and bubbly schoolgirl" who lives an extreme disciplined life. He hopes that the audience will come to understand how the benefits of the sport can last a lifetime. Latimer feels that kata karate "has a depth of beauty to be discovered." He adds that beyond the competitive combat of the sport, "...there is a challenge for us to look beyond our physical barriers and enter the spiritual battle of facing ourselves."