Taylor Swift and director Joseph Kahn received widespread criticism for the pop star’s “Wildest Dreams” video, with accusations (including from this writer) that the video’s colonial Africa setting and erasure of African people constituted a form of nostalgia and an imperialist rewrite of history.
Kahn responded to that criticism in a statement to NPR yesterday, essentially minimizing the colonial aspects of the video while trying to justify the aesthetic choices as an homage to “classic Hollywood romances”:
“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 a number of shots,” he says, “but I rarely cut to crew faces outside of the director as the vast majority of screen time is Taylor and Scott [Eastwood, who plays her lover].”
Adds Kahn: “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.”
So nevermind that Burton and Taylor’s relationship was famously turbulent and plagued by emotional abuse, or that these movies are also guilty of colonial whitewashing. … Anyway, Kahn also cites his and his colleagues’ racial diversity as refutation of the criticism:
To those who felt the video did not show enough black Africans, Kahn says: “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 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,” he says, stating that “we are all proud of our work.”
He emphasizes that “there is no political agenda in the video” and adds, “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.”
We have our opintions on Kahn’s statement, but what do you think?