"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," says director Joseph Kahn

Advertisement
Image
Credit: Inset: Getty

When Taylor Swift released her video for “Wildest Dreams” during the MTV VMAs on Sunday, it was meant to channel old Hollywood glamour and evoke the romance of the film The Notebook, but what quickly followed instead was controversy.

The video – which has already reached over 15 million views on YouTube in just three days – features Swift and Scott Eastwood as actors embroiled in a passionate, rocky relationship on the set of their 1950’s-era film. The problem, say critics, is the largely white cast featured throughout.

Now, in response to headlines such as The Hollywood Reporter‘s "Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’ Video Accused of ‘Channeling White Colonialism’" or NPR‘s "Taylor Swift is Dreaming of a Very White Africa," the video’s director Joseph Kahn is speaking out.

“‘Wildest Dreams’ is a song about a relationship that was doomed, and the music video concept was that they were having a love affair on location away from their normal lives. This is not a video about colonialism but a love story on the set of a period film crew in Africa, 1950,” says Kahn in a statement.

“There are black Africans in the video in a number of shots, but I rarely cut to crew faces outside of the director as the vast majority of screentime is Taylor and Scott. 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.

“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 cast and edited this video. 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. This video is set in the past by a crew set in the present and we are all proud of our work.

“There is no political agenda in the video. Our only goal was to tell a tragic love story in classic Hollywood iconography. Furthermore, this video has been singled out, yet there have been many music videos depicting Africa. These videos have traditionally not been lessons in African history. 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.”