Taylor Swift’s video for her new song “Wildest Dreams” launched a storm of Internet criticism, including a searing review on this blog.
The video is set in Africa of the 1950s, with Swift playing an actress who’s having a love affair with her co-star in a film. Critics took the video to task for its mainly white cast and for presenting a “glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa” — that’s how James Kassaga Arinaitwe and Viviane Rutabingwa put it in the opinion piece they wrote for NPR.
Now the director of the video, Joseph Kahn, has spoken out, answering critics and defending his work.
In a public statement that was emailed to NPR, Kahn noted: “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.”
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.”