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March 4, 2021
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Director hits back at critics of Taylor Swift’s African video

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Image: Director Joseph Kahn speaks as Taylor Swift accepts the award for best female video for “Blank Space” at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, California August 30, 2015. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni


NEW YORK (Reuters) – The director of Taylor Swift’s new music video set in Africa struck back on Wednesday at mounting criticism of the scarcity of black people in the mini-film and its romanticised portrayal of the continent.

“Wildest Dreams,” a love story filmed against a backdrop of giraffes, lions, waterfalls and stunning sunsets, has been viewed more than 15 million times since it was released on Monday to accompany the American pop superstar’s latest single.

Although Swift is donating all proceeds to the African Parks Foundation of America, critics have seized on the video as portraying a stereotyped colonial-era view of Africa.

“So thank you, Taylor Swift, for proving once again that African stereotypes are safe atop the pinnacle of American pop culture,” wrote Matt Carotenuto, who teaches African studies at New York state’s St. Lawrence University, in an article on Wednesday on Salon.com.

Director Joseph Kahn said the “Wildest Dreams” video depicted a love story on the set of a period film in Africa in 1950.

Kahn said there were black Africans in the video in background shots but that 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 also noted that the video’s producer, Jil Hardin, and editor Chancler Haynes are both African-American.

“There is no political agenda in the video. Our only goal was to tell a tragic love story in classic Hollywood iconography,” Kahn said in a statement.

Swift, who has some 62 million Twitter followers and whose “1989” album has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide, has not responded to the criticism.

In an article for National Public Radio’s website, James Kaaga Arinaitwe and Viviane Rutabingwa, who have both lived and worked in several African countries, said Swift was not the first person to use the continent as a backdrop for romantic tales.

“We are shocked to think that in 2015, Taylor Swift, her record label and her video production group would think it was OK to film a video that presents a glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa,” they added.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)

 Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.


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