High Fantasy

Director: Jenna Cato Bass
2017 | South Africa | 71m
GENRE: Activism | African | Comedy | Discrimination | Drama | Gender | Lesbian | Queer | Racism | Sci-Fi/Horror/Fantasy
SECTION: World Cinema
Expected Guests: Editor, Kyle Wallace


Smartphone video captures a camping trip deep in the South African wilderness. But what starts off as a lark among four friends—three black, one white; three women, one man—takes a sudden sharp turn toward the weird when they wake up to discover that they have switched bodies with one another. Far from being played for laughs, this Freaky Friday scenario becomes a lens through which director Jenna Cato Bass and her actors—all credited as writers and camera operators—view identity, gender, racism, sexism, and South Africa’s history and politics. Seeing the world through one another’s eyes turns out to be not only revelatory but also discombobulating; in gaining new perspectives, the quartet is forced to face hard truths about themselves, their friendship, and their country.

Bass treads lightly with the fantasy elements of her story, treating the body swap more as a matter of fact than as a fancy. Similarly, the cell phone images are not simply a gimmick; their home movie quality anchors the film in reality. Interspersed throughout is interview footage of the characters—several of them queer—trying to describe what happened to them out in the desert, adding a documentary-esque dimension to the story while further exploring the ramifications of the event. The young, attractive cast is game, with Qondiswa James particularly effective as an activist enraged to find herself in the body of not just a white woman but a white woman who is a direct beneficiary of South Africa’s legacy of oppression.


Museum of African Diaspora

  • Premiere Status: Bay Area