In his feature debut, Feel Like Ghosts, director-writer Kali Baker-Johnson takes on the challenges of a relationship that crumbles under the stress of long-distance separation. Keir (Nican Robinson) and Jade (Misha Molani) are college lovers who fail to keep their connection alive after he moves from New York to the West Coast. Though they are exes, each must grapple with moving on. Keir is involved in a friend-with-benefits situation and moving toward his passion as a photographer, but Jade is on his mind constantly. Jade has not gotten over Keir, and as she prepares for a family wedding, a message from him rocks her world and gives her hope.
We learn that the differences that drove them apart were about more than just physical distance. Keir is Black, while Jade comes from a traditional Indian family. She fears telling her parents about him because she doesn’t think they will approve. Despite these stumbling blocks and disconnects, the fact lies between Keir and Jade that they have, quite by accident, found another soul with which they share that unique, ineffable energy poets struggle to describe, but is undeniable when it happens.
Their story calls into question the notion that love is enough. In the real world, it often isn’t. For young people on the cusp of launching into the adult world of career and life adventures, it is not enough. As the story unfurls, we see them struggling with their doubts and human frailties, and we fervently hope for them some version of making peace with the emotional turmoil, either together or separately. Having this profound experience so young will imprint on them, and they will come away from it changed, regardless of the outcome. In this way, each of them will be part of the other for life. Whether that impact is good or bad, only the future knows.
“…they have, quite by accident, found another soul with which they share that unique, ineffable energy poets struggle to describe…”
As a filmmaker, Baker-Johnson shows a style and grace that is rare these days, particularly in the Indie space. He is clearly a student of Spike Lee, as Feel Like Ghosts heavily borrows stylistically from the early Lee films, including shooting in black-and-white. It’s not exaggerating to say the filmmaker adds a level of polish and sophistication that goes beyond Lee. The combination of Hip-Hop and Jazz in the soundtrack, with spoken word verse by the characters, tie the film together.
Pure excellence in the performances elevates the whole into real art. Robinson and Molani are comfortable and authentic in their roles. The characters are credible, and the ease with which Baker-Johnson navigates, conveying their experience, gives the viewer an extraordinary level of confidence in the film. It’s clear that you are in good hands. The film wraps around us like a good sweater. This is a quality that filmmakers seem to have forgotten in many cases, choosing instead to have an impact by confusing or startling the viewer. We know we are seeing realistic situations portrayed with compassion. There is nothing forced about the longing, the sadness, or the joy.
Baker-Johnson talks about the motivations for making Feel LIke Ghosts in his Director’s statement: “This film started as a short script that I hoped to shoot for fun with my grad school friends while we were waiting to graduate. When I started it, I thought I was writing about post-art school angst, kind of poking fun at it but also languishing in it. By the time I finished the short, I realized it was actually about still being in love with my ex-girlfriend. So while the film isn’t autobiographical, it’s definitely personal.“
From a short script to a full-length feature film, Baker-Johnson shows a maturity in Feels Like Ghosts, both emotionally and in the craft of filmmaking, far beyond his years. Some people can just do this, and he’s one of them.
For screening information, visit the Feel Like Ghosts official website.
"…Baker-Johnson shows a style and grace that is rare these days.."