taylor swift's 'wildest dreams' director fights back against whitewashing claims

Joseph Kahn insists it's not a video about colonialism, but a period love story.

by i-D Staff and Nick Levine
04 September 2015, 1:11pm

Joseph Kahn, the director of Taylor Swift's Wildest Dreams video, continues to defend his work vehemently after the clip was accused of whitewashing and celebrating colonialism. The video, which premiered at the VMAs on Sunday, portrays a romance between two fictional actors, played by Swift and Scott Eastwood, that blossoms as they shoot a movie together in Africa in 1959. Out of Africa, the epic 1985 movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, is very much a touchpoint.

Following a mixed reaction to the video online, Kahn released a statement insisting that "this is not a video about colonialism but a love story on the set of a period film crew in Africa, 1950". He also addressed accusations of whitewashing head-on, writing: "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."

He also defended the singer's motives, pointing out that "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".

However, the debate rages on and Kahn -- who also directed Swift's Bad Blood and Blank Space videos -- remains vocal on Twitter. "Sad thing is, when people make false accusations of racism and the public rejects it, it makes real racism harder to fight," he wrote on Twitter yesterday. Swift, however, has yet to comment on the controversy.

taylor swift
Wildest Dreams
Joseph Kahn