Directed by: Jenna Cato Bass
Starring: Qondiswa James, Nala Khumalo, Francesca Varrie Michel, Liza Scholtz
Four young friends go on a camping trip in the heart of the South African wilderness. The vast farmland they’re staying on belongs to Lexi’s (Francesca Varrie Michel) family and they document their adventures with their camera phones. Things take a strange turn when they wake up one morning and have mysteriously swapped bodies with one another, causing them to have to quickly learn how to see the world differently.
This young, diverse cast are brilliant. Each character is so unique, with their own characteristics that it’s pretty easy to tell who’s in whose body just by their mannerisms. There’s humour to be found in the situation as Xoli (Qondiswa James) finds himself in a woman’s body, but then the film also offers commentary on society as his experience makes him rethink how he talks about and treats women. Thami (Liza Scholtz) finds the body swap the most difficult as she ends up in Lexi’s body. She’s a politically active young black woman and to be suddenly in a white woman’s body is frustrating and disorientating for her.
High Fantasy offers a lot of talking points about different political issues in South Africa; race, gender, police violence, sexuality, but it never fully delves into any of them. These social issues are used to frame the problems this diverse group of friends face with not being in their own bodies – often to amusing and not really “politically correct” results. The situation allows for buried feelings to bubble to the surface leading to arguments between the friends. It’s uncomfortable to watch at times as differences these characters face due to their race or gender is brought to the forefront, leaving you unsure if these characters relationships can survive the madness.
High Fantasy blends realism with fantasy as the body-swap shenanigans ensue. It’s a film that has bold ideas, vivid characters and a creative filming style. High Fantasy is a lot of fun and the young cast and director/write Jenna Cato Bass have to be commended on producing such an innovative film.