#MUFFApproved TIFF 2017: High Fantasy
Not your average body switcharoo story
Directed by: Jenna Bass
Written by: Jenna Bass, Qondiswa James, Liza Scholtz, Francesca Varrie Michel, Nala Khumalo, Loren Loubser
Starring: Qondiswa James, Liza Scholtz, Francesca Varrie Michel, Nala Khumalo, Loren Loubser
In this fantastic found footage film, four friends switch bodies while on a camping trip in the Northern Cape of South Africa. The movie opens with candid discussions on gender, race, and politics — setting the tone for the rest of the film. High Fantasy is a socially aware comedy whose characters and landscape are steeped in history, the current sociopolitical climate of the county, and doesn’t turn away from the raw reality of it all.
The four central characters uniquely outstanding on their own, and every actor brilliantly plays both their original and switch counterpart. Right after the body swap, I really noticed the change in the actors, specifically in how they walked and moved their bodies. Not in a bad way though — no one hammed it up. It was clear that all of the actors worked hard with one another on how to express each role.
When Tatiana’s friend Stacey Lee (Loren Loubser) makes a surprise visit to the campsite, that’s when everyone in the theatre lost their mind laughing. Stacey Lee is that person at a rally who calls themselves “woke,” which is both amazing and annoying at the same time. But Loubser is aware of this and plays the character skillfully. She’s hilarious. Her presence causes so much disruption and confusion and shakes up the flow in a practical way.
But Qondiswa James was the shining star when I saw it, playing both the feminist Xoli and (self proclaimed) playboy Thami. As Xoli, James delivers most of the hard truth, specifically of what it means to be a young, black woman in current day South Africa. A lot of the women in the audience connected to Xoli (there were many positive call outs during the screening). However, Thami is more about self branding and joking around. The juxtaposition of the two competing personalities and viewpoints made this body switch in particular a standout comedic performance.
What grounded the story was the individual testimonial pieces, where each character reflected upon their time in another body. Thami admits that men treat women horribly. Xoli feels that her experience has only been to push a white woman in the spotlight (to be the lead in a movie). And seeing Lexi — whose family owned the land they camped on and the only white person on the trip — finally acknowledge that by being Caucasian, she has more gifted to her in life, was necessary. These reflections successfully cement the film in the social message it was aiming for.
After the premiere, director Jenna Bass sighted Mike Leigh’s method of collaborating with actors to build the script as an influence while producing High Fantasy. The cast are also credited as cinematographers since they filmed the characters’ experiences on their phones. I think it’s phenomenal that Bass was both so ambitious to make a body switch movie like we haven’t seen before and to engage the whole cast in every process before and during the creation.
Chloe MacPherson has background in fine art but transferred into film and creative writing during university for the job stability. She definitely watched too much TV as a kid.