The lives of millions depend on eight small clams working hard to detect contamination in the city’s water supply. Clams are the new canaries in the coal mine in this stranger-than-fiction peek at how humans create problems for the planet and then use living organisms to protect themselves… From themselves.

FAT KATHY is a very interesting short documentary on an uncommon topic: the Fat Kathy is, in fact, a city pump which uses a water safety system based on living organisms, specifically clams. Built in the middle of the river, the Fat Kathy makes use of a biomonitoring system to check the quality of water going towards the city and protects the citizen from water contamination. In FAT KATHY we meet people, workers of the facility, that not only explain how the system works, but also express their fears and hopes. The scene you can see depicted in the shot above this text is shot in the only path to reach the Fat Kathy, a 300 m long tunnel under the water. Silently, a man approaces the camera, preceded only by the sound of his steps: he tells of a recurring nightmare he has about the clams of the implant, where the water gets poisoned but the living organisms do not respond. Greatly created shots show us the clams, the river, the facility from the outside, and we also meet other workers, from a clams catcher to the ‘queen of the headland’. FAT KATHY gets us to know how a water safety system of this kind works, shows how the clams are checked, prepared, how they physically serve as alarm for water pollution. With unconventional cinematography choices, odd and amazing shots, the quality of this documentary is destabilising. As creative as Pelka is, she was able to bring an incredible attention to such a peculiar topic, raising the subject of the short and producing an amazing viewing experience. FAT KATHY is a short documentary worth more than one watch.

FAT KATHY was in selection at Warsaw Film Festival, Hot Docs in Toronto and Bogota Short Film Festival; at Amarcort Film Festival it won the Calzinaz Technical Jury Award for best short doc, becoming the first short film at Amarcort to win the prize since the introduction of the short docs specific category.

Director: Julia Pelka
Country: Poland
Year: 2019
Running time: 14