If you’ve been keeping up with world news, you’ve probably noticed the uptick in human and sex trafficking in the last few years. Whether locally or abroad, young women (mostly) are snatched off the street or unknowingly lured into precarious situations. In 2019 alone, 5,590 Indigenous women and girls were reported missing — they rarely make the news. It’s a sad, tragic reality here in America that if you aren’t a pretty, young white girl, your disappearance probably won’t make the headlines. Josef Kubota Wladyka’s Catch the Fair One subtly (and not so subtly) shines a light on this unfortunate fact.
Kaylee “K.O.” (Kali Reis) is a mixed Indigenous former champion boxer who has fallen on rough times after a fight with addiction — an addiction that has strained her family relationships. She is on the arduous path to sobriety and staying clean when her younger sister goes missing. The disappearance further strains her relationship with her mother as she feels like her mom wishes it were her instead and not her “perfect one.” But K.O. — ever the fighter — decides to take matters into her own hands and go undercover in the smuggling ring that took her sister. Lacking assistance from the authorities and only the help of her best friend and trainer (Shelito Vincent), she embarks on the fight of her life — a fight for answers and survival.
From the very beginning, you can tell this will be a gritty, hold no punches type of film. We open up with the cheer or crows and success in the ring and are quickly jolted back to the dim reality in which K.O. is currently living. We see the talent and determination that is still there as she tries to keep her head up and bounce back from the hard blow that life has dealt her by trying to bring her family back together. Through fleeting flashbacks, we see how much of a loving big sister K.O. was and how her sister’s disappearance has caused her so much pain and anger. But she’s not one to give up easily, and that grit and determination are put on display over and over again for the film’s taut 85 minutes.
Catch the Fair One is dark, cold, and moody, giving adding a visceral layer to the overall sense of hopelessness, despair, and the defeat of several of the characters — hopelessness that is felt by many grappling with a loved one who has disappeared without a trace or into a treacherous underworld of crime and abuse. As only his second feature, Josef Kubota Wladyka’s Catch the Fair One shows a talent and skill level well beyond his years. Every element of the production brought Wladyka’s vision to life — from the color choice to the empty, decaying locations to the wardrobe choices. It all reflects the world of loss, absence, and despair that K.O. is living in after her sister’s disappearance.
But even in all of this darkness, Kali Reis’s performance shines through. She’s raw, passionate, and just an overall badass. She really embodies the character and her plight — this is the Taken we need to see. Reis, a real-life champion boxer gave this film every last drop of energy she had — she left it all in the ring. From the emotional moments with her mother to the tough, take no prisoner’s vigilante mission, Reis bodied this role. And it probably didn’t hurt that Reis helped develop the story with Wladyka for four long years — her commitment to social justice issues affecting her Indigenous people comes through not only the storytelling but also in the passion with which she lets it play out on the screen. The pain, rage, and frustration are palpable. She carries the weight of the untold stories of these countless women — as well as the film itself — on her shoulders and does so with the commitment and seriousness it deserves.
In the end, Catch the Fair One is a story of resilience (the story of Indigenous people) and the fight for survival. But it’s also a story that we need to hear, considering how America is still trying to erase and push Indigenous people to the margins. It is emotional, impactful, thought-provoking, but all the while entertaining. This human trafficking is nothing new, and it’s a profoundly complex issue that needs to be brought to the forefront more. Catch the Fair One does a fantastic job of bringing this social message to the masses through art — hopefully leaving a lasting impact on the viewers.