Magazine article Variety

South Africa's Bass Explores Diversity

Magazine article Variety

South Africa's Bass Explores Diversity

Article excerpt

AS HOLLYWOOD'S DIVERSITY problems have provoked a reckoning everywhere from the writers' room to the boardroom, South African helmer Jenna Bass has asked what it's like to literally inhabit someone else's skin.

In "High Fantasy," which arrives in Berlin as part of the Generations program, Bass examines thorny issues of South African identity in a satirical thriller about a group of young travelers who mysteriously swap bodies on a camping trip.

Shot on iPhones using a largely improvised script, the helmer's sophomore feature is a low-fiexploration of the messy tangle of race, class and gender identity in modern-day South Africa.

It's a timely film when viewed through the lens of broader global movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, although Bass says the movie is firmly rooted in the "observable daily reality" of South African society. "If you live in South Africa, these things hit you very hard on a daily basis," she says.

The film's reception since its world premiere last year, as part of Toronto's youth-focused Next Wave program, has buoyed the 31-yearold helmer, who says the movie was "made in a different kind of filmmaking language, with the aim of addressing young people."

For her next film, Bass is reimagining the Western with an all-female lead cast, set in the badlands of South Africa's Karoo desert. Set to lens later this year, "Flatland" will upend the tropes of a well-worn genre by looking at what it means to be a woman in the Wild West, offering Bass a chance to explore "the one thing I never got from a Western. …

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