Body swapping is a concept primarily found in comedies. Freaky Friday, It’s a Boy Girl Thing, even Scooby Doo all use the concept of body switching for laughs. High Fantasy, a South African film shown as part of this year’s Africa in Motion Film Festival, takes this idea and uses it to investigate what it actually means to become someone else.
Filmed entirely through the characters’ phones, High Fantasy follows four teenagers on a camping trip on a farm outside of Cape Town. They wake up the next morning in each others bodies, swapping gender and race. What seems like a fairly standard comedic setup actually becomes an exploration on race and gender in South Africa, and whether the ‘rainbow nation’ still exists.
Throughout the film, phones act as an extension of the characters, as they use the camera to explore their new bodies, document their struggles, and capture their surroundings. This is punctuated by short clips from the characters being interviewed at a later date, allowing reflection and commentary on the events, but also further defines who the characters are.
Unfortunately, the shaky camera and often poor audio is distracting at first, especially at the first half of the film when the characters have yet to be clearly defined. However, the use of smartphones to document the story is effective. The characters dictate the story, making the film intimate, raw, and vulnerable. Fittingly for a film about body swapping, by viewing the film through the characters’ smartphones, we see the world through their eyes.
High Fantasy takes a light hearted concept and injects real world consequences and pathos. Here, waking up in someone else’s body doesn’t lead to wacky hijinks, and instead is eye-opening, traumatic, and violating. While there are humorous moments that arise from the situation, the main takeaway from High Fantasy is that although we can always learn something by considering a different point of view, there is a limit to what we can truly understand from walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.
[Jo Reid – @_jomreid]