Four South African twenty-somethings of diverse racial backgrounds go on a camping trip into the country. Shot on a set of iPhones and largely improvised, they awake one morning to find they’ve switched bodies.
The ever-evolving and fraught politics of South Africa are well known not least of all to those who spent their formative years in the country, this author among them. One of several flicks to screen as part of the first ever Sydney South African Film Festival, incidentally timed with a predictably divisive election, High Fantasy distils a lot of the tension to our four main players as they navigate the most confronting experience of their lives.
Channelling a lot of contentious issues through the lens of those whose earliest memories are of post-apartheid South Africa, the premise and indeed the first act’s well-staged setup instil a lot of promise and above all recommend the film. Unlike the flash-forwards to faces-to-camera in nondescript interview rooms and much that transpires later, throughout the initial stretch the issues are teased out rather than blatantly underlined through expository-ridden dialogue.
The symbolic image of a chair adorned with the South African flag, left alone in the glare of the headlights, is one notable exception.
As the performers’ roles change matters become muddled and it’s not always clear who has transformed into which character. That which is improvised becomes increasingly unengaging and hard to follow as the film progresses; having benefited initially from a more grounded, enunciated approach.
The particular cinematographic form more often than not evokes intimate visages of any given character rather than, as might have traditionally been the case, capturing events at a greater remove. The camera(s) otherwise meander needlessly on occasion as characters elucidate on matters specific to addressing divisions where lived memory remains predominantly constituted by a post-apartheid environment.
As interesting as that best articulated in High Fantasy was the cinema-wide discussion which ensued following the screening where the ad libitum attributes of the film were impressed; a conspicuous generational gap emerging between some who favoured the film and it’s detractors. Clearly endearing itself to a younger audience who can better relate to this sort of retelling and too those whose strongest recollection of the effects of apartheid were it’s immediate aftermath, High Fantasy is not for all yet definitely for those curious about the ever-increasing trend of smartphone-driven filmmaking.