“A Season to Remember” premier: A take on fathers and sons

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Billy “Kats” Katsigiannis and his father George.
For the Sun-Times

Billy “Kats’’ Katsigiannis looked like a character from another time in his Zoot suit Wednesday evening for the premier of “A Season to Remember.’’

As he introduced his documentary on his late father, George V. Katsigiannis, Kats noted the difference from his more usual camo.

It was a proud evening for our outdoor world. Spence Petros, Dan Basore and Bob Coine were among the notables for the red-carpet at Classic Cinema’s York Theatre in Elmhurst.

Credit: Dale Bowman

Credit: Dale Bowman

“A Season to Remember’’ is about fathers and sons, and passing on outdoor traditions. It follows Kats hunting and fishing from Canada for walleye, black bear and muskie to white-tailed deer in Illinois.

As I found a seat, a young man and woman sat next to me. It was Jake Hofer, soon to graduate from Western Illinois. I met him about 15 years ago at a Ducks Unlimited Greenwing event on fabled Snicarte Island. Hofer worked on the social media, GoFundMe and web site for Kats.

Funny how things circle. Kats and Petros share more than Greek heritage. Like he has for many, Petros was a mentor to Kats. He thanked Petros for “telling me to be different.”

“A Season to Remember’’ is different, but it also fits in the father-and-son genre. “Star Wars’’ is the most successful series in the genre.

“Am I going to fill his shoes? Probably not,’’ Kats said early in the film.

That is central to nearly all sons.

I’ve been looking forward to the finished documentary since Kats pulled me aside at a muskie show last winter.

\Visually, there are two strengths to the documentary. The integration of the decades old films, grainy as they are, from trips to Canada add depth to the story and the scenes. Second, the scenic shots (most notable are shots of jellyfish in British Columbia and many shots of black bears fishing) are strong.

This is a hunting film with some fishing. I was glad the hunting was not whitewashed, there are kill shots. Be forewarned if you might find that offensive. I think it is part of hunting and needs to be included. The whitetail section may have made cinematic history as a sequence.

If you sense a but coming, you’re right.

“Am I going to fill his shoes?’’ is a loaded question. To answer it as truthfully takes courage. The truth is that no one has a perfect father, and none of us are perfect fathers.

Life is about muddling toward the ideal.

I would have liked to have seen edges to George Katsigiannis. It would have added depth to his memory, given a 55-gallon barrel to measure him against.

Overall, the script needed tightening to focus on that central question, “Am I going to fill his shoes?’’ Some of it as simple as shortening individual segments (the bear hunt could be cut in half and would be stronger for it).

In this kind of work, a top-notch editor/scriptwriter are as vital as a guide in hunting/fishing. And it should be somebody outside of the tight-knit family and circle of friends. You can do it on your own or with buddies, but success is higher with a professional with an outsider view.

I say that because I agree with Kats when he said, “I finally found my niche. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.’’

I look forward to more.

Info at BillyKats.com.

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