Despite its daring combination of the aesthetic of found footage movies with a proud 00s cinema tradition, the body swap comedy, High Fantasy feels like a missed opportunity. For the most part the comedic moments land, but the film becomes murkier when it attempts to use this premise to confront gender politics and racial tension in post-apartheid South Africa.
Mostly shot through Instagram story-style montages on iPhones, the cast share both a screenwriting and a director of photography credit with the film’s director Jenna Bass, but unfortunately this team effort doesn’t entirely translate to the outcome. As fun as the set up may be, the justification for the characters to be filming certain moments often feels dubious, especially as things become more tense between this group of so-called friends. And then, like most found footage movies, it’s not particularly good looking.
There’s issues of lingering resentment at white colonialists, but unfortunately the film’s central argument ultimately seems to land on ‘it’s complicated being a white person in South Africa’. There’s a palpable and understandable rage from the black characters, but it too often feels like a satire that an older, far right leaning person would write about Woke Teenagers Online.
There are some moments that are self reflective but the testimonials in between the ‘found footage’ isn’t nearly illuminating enough – perhaps apart from the cheer-worthy line that ‘all men are trash, including me’. Most importantly, we never truly get to feel what these characters are feeling – instead, any subtext ends up being screamed at each other by these teenagers.
High Fantasy has a great concept, but it’s unfortunately poorly executed and often exhausting. It’s frustrating to see a film this inventive and this willing to dive into these arguments lose itself along the way.
CAST: Qondiswa James, Nala Khumalo, Francesca Varrie Michel, Liza Scholtz, Loren Loubser, Francois Immelman, Jenna Bass
DIRECTOR: Jenna Bass
WRITERS: Jenna Bass, Qondiswa James, Nala Khumalo, Francesca Varrie Michel, Liza Scholtz, Loren Loubser, Francois Immelman
SYNOPSIS: A group of young friends on a camping trip deep in the South African countryside wake up to discover they have all swapped bodies.[TRAILER FORTHCOMING]