David Knight - 4th Sept 2015

Joseph Kahn has quickly responded to critics of his new Taylor Swift video, releasing a statement which offers a robust defence of the work against accusations made in reviews on several websites that the video portrays a white colonialist vision of Africa.

In the video for Wildest Dreams, which was shot on location in two African countries, Taylor Swift plays a 1950s movie star shooting a Hollywood movie on location in Africa, and becoming involved in a thwarted love affair with her co-star, played by Scott Eastwood. In an article on the Huffington Post, Lauren Duca wrote that the video "channels wild colonialism", and "instead of the cultural appropriation that has become almost status quo in today's pop music, Swift has opted for the bolder option of actually just embodying the political exploitation of a region and its people." 

On the Daily Dot, Nico Lang said the video "has a major race problem", and "for a clip that’s set in Africa - it’s about as white as a Sunday morning farmer’s market." In response to these and other negative reviews, Kahn has released a statement which reads:           

“Wildest Dreams is a song about a relationship that was doomed, and the music video concept was that they were having a love affair on location away from their normal lives. This is not a video about colonialism but a love story on the set of a period film crew in Africa, 1950.

"There are black Africans in the video in a number of shots, but I rarely cut to crew faces outside of the director as the vast majority of screentime is Taylor and Scott. The video is based on classic Hollywood romances like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as classic movies like The African Queen, Out of Africa and The English Patient, to name a few.

"The reality is not only were there people of color in the video, but the key creatives who worked on this video are people of color. I am Asian American, the producer Jil Hardin is an African American woman, and the editor Chancler Haynes is an African American man. We cast and edited this video. We collectively decided it would have been historically inaccurate to load the crew with more black actors as the video would have been accused of rewriting history. This video is set in the past by a crew set in the present and we are all proud of our work.

"There is no political agenda in the video. Our only goal was to tell a tragic love story in classic Hollywood iconography. Furthermore, this video has been singled out, yet there have been many music videos depicting Africa. These videos have traditionally not been lessons in African history.

"Let’s not forget, Taylor has chosen to donate all of her proceeds from this video to the African Parks Foundation to preserve the endangered animals of the continent and support the economies of local African people."

Wildest Dreams is Joseph Kahn's third video for a track from Swift's 1989 album, with the previous two for Blank Space and Bad Blood becoming huge successes. Both won two awards each at the MTV Video Music Awards last Sunday, with Bad Blood winning Video of the Year, and Blank Space now has recorded over one billion views on YouTube.

David Knight - 4th Sept 2015

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