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Kitty cornered: Doc looks at the people inside the Hello Kitty costumes

Not as cute as it looks: Daniel Burity, the director of “Hola Kitty,” says that wearing a Hello Kitty head is “not a good idea if you are claustrophobic.”
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He really got inside her head!

A Bedford-Stuyvesant filmmaker will screen his short documentary “Hola Kitty,” as part of the Grand Finale of the Katra Film Series at the Alamo Drafthouse on Feb. 6. The 10-minute movie follows the lives of Latino immigrants who don furry costumes and superhero outfits to pose with tourists in Times Square and Coney Island, and its director hopes the doc will provide a new angle for the national discussion on immigration.

“When I started seeing those costumes in Times Square, I thought it was very interesting that the people doing this were mostly Mexicans and illegal immigrants,” said Daniel Burity. “And I always wanted to make a documentary about immigration, only now I could highlight something new.

He was especially intrigued that workers portrayed characters of different ethnicities, he said.

“Hello Kitty is a Japanese character, and you have a Mexican person working illegally in the U.S. as that character — I wanted to examine the social aspect of immigration,” said Burity.

After talking to the costumed performers, he discovered that people will often treat a fictional character better than they would an actual human immigrant, said Burity.

“One woman talked about how much she feels better in the costume because [Hello Kitty is] not Latina — people don’t see color, they just see this character,” he said. “What was heartbreaking was how she feels even more comfortable dressing up in a Hello Kitty costume than being herself.”

And just wearing the costume is no easy feat, Burity discovered. He tried on a costume head, and he only lasted two minutes with it on.

“I tried on a mask and it’s not a good idea if you’re claustroph­obic,” said Burity. “It’s heavy, it’s super dark, and it’s extremely hot. I don’t know how they can wear it for hours, but they do.”

In an era when anti-immigrant sentiments have increased, Burity hopes that his film will provide a glimpse into the effort that immigrants will go through in order to remain in the United States.

“I finished this film just before Trump was elected, but my intention is to educate people and for the film to be fun and not preachy,” he said. “I’m not a teacher, but I think people will learn about other realities, and about the work illegal immigrants do to maintain a life here.”

“Hola Kitty” is one of 15 short films screening during two sessions during the Katra Film Series finale. The winner, determined after the screening, will win a camera kit worth $5,000.

“Hola Kitty” at the Katra Film Series [445 Albee Square West between Willoughby and Fulton streets Downtown, (718) 513–2547, www.katrafilmseries.com]. Feb. 6 at 7 pm. $30–$100.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Updated 5:49 pm, July 9, 2018
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