Adishankarbrand / TIFF
Final week, Joseph Kahn summoned the wrath of the Beyhive down upon himself — and never simply as soon as however repeatedly. For the typical particular person on-line, drawing the enraged consideration of one of many web's most devoted and formidable fandoms is one thing to be feared and prevented in any respect prices. However the 44-year-old Korean-American filmmaker didn't simply goad Beyoncé stans into assault with taunts about their inability to do real damage and quips to the press destined to right away be taken out of context, he greeted the inflow of bee emojis and tweeted insults like Lieutenant Dan howling defiance at a hurricane.
Or possibly similar to a director with a brand new film to advertise. “To be sincere, I did it on function,” Kahn admitted over espresso in Toronto, referring to his marketing campaign of strategic hive-poking and the ensuing media protection. And, he identified, it labored. “Everybody is aware of Bodied now. You may make an excellent movie, however when you throw it out right into a vacuum, the air doesn’t get in there. The one factor individuals care about as of late is movie star. My film has no stars. So all it’s a must to do is know methods to rattle the web cage.”
Bodied, which was the opening evening choose of the Toronto Worldwide Movie Competition's beloved Midnight Insanity program, is Kahn's first movie in six years, one he wrote with battle rapper Alex Larsen, aka Child Twist. Altogether, Kahn's made three movies, together with 2004's self-aware Quick and the Livid-but-with-motorcycles riff Torque, and the 2011 teen-comedy-slasher style mashup Detention, which, like Bodied, he funded himself. However the purpose he's so well-acquainted with the world of devoted pop fandoms is as a result of it's the entity through which he spends most of his time. He's greatest often called a outstanding, prolific, perpetually outspoken music video director who, since launching his profession within the early ’90s, has labored with everybody from Muse to Future's Youngster, Britney Spears to Dr. Dre. And, in fact, with Taylor Swift.
“Look What You Made Me Do”
Huge Machine Label Group
Since 2015, Swift has been the music artist with whom Kahn's profession has been most carefully linked. It's a connection boosted, partially, by Kahn's willingness to wade into the online fray in protection of the seemingly eternally embattled pop star (it's in speaking about Swift that Kahn is most cautious together with his phrases, describing her as an “wonderful goal”). Kahn has directed 5 music movies for Swift, together with the monster that’s “Clean Area” (2.16 billion views and counting) and late August's internet-breaker “Look What You Made Me Do.” He was nonetheless slugging it out on behalf of the latter, an intensely parsed and much-discussed video through which Swift contends together with her previous personas, within the days main as much as the Bodied premiere.
Kahn clearly isn't afraid of controversy or a battle. At a time when individuals working in Hollywood have gotten more and more cautious about their on-line presences, he's maintained one in every of most markedly salty, trolly Twitter feeds of any filmmaker working at the moment. (Illustrative pattern: “I just gotta remind everyone that my twitter has only one message. Fuck you.”) These details are much more crystal clear when watching Bodied, which stars former Disney Channel actor Calum Worthy and precise battle rappers like Dumbfoundead and Dizaster, and is a button-pushing comedy that makes use of the underground hip-hop scene as a method to sort out language wars, cultural appropriation, and freedom of speech.
But when that pitch sounds just like the ramp-up to the type of potential nightmare 4chan apologia you'd need to run away from, screaming, the fact of Bodied is much more conflicted, thought of, overstuffed with concepts, and sure, generally, even delicate. It’s a movie that argues on behalf of the appropriate to say something whereas concurrently emphasizing how a lot phrases can wound. “This movie has a number of points in it, and I'm not dismissing any of them,” Kahn stated. “Actually, one of many issues we're making an attempt to determine is, on the earth of absolute free speech, is there a restrict? Is there a consequence to going too far? I wished to discover the furthest attain of that.”
Huge Machine Information
Bodied was produced by Eminem, one other artist Kahn's directed videos for, and a person who famously received his begin within the freestyle rap battle scene. However whereas Eight Mile will get name-checked in Bodied, the movie primarily owes its existence to a Swift controversy. Extra particularly, it was born out of the one kicked up by the video Kahn did for “Wildest Dreams,” shot partially within the Serengeti and meant to evoke a location shoot for an previous Hollywood manufacturing à la The African Queen, with Swift and Scott Eastwood enjoying actors whose onscreen romance bleeds into actual life.
Kahn was conscious there have been, to make use of his phrase, “complexities” to this idea from the beginning — loads of shit through which to step. These included issues as as to whether the video would unintentionally make it seem like Swift was out to shoot lions as an alternative of a movie, and whether or not she'd be accused of “whitewashing historical past and ignoring segregation” if Kahn forged a black actor to play the director of the fictional function, as was his authentic impulse. These concerns did not dampen the firestorm of arguments the video set off about whether or not Swift was romanticizing colonization and erasing Africans from the African setting. Kahn wasn't having it.
“I began making jokes about it. I had one joke the place I stated, 'Asians can't be racists. Black or white, all canine style the identical to us.' Paper magazine wrote a whole hit piece on me speaking about how I don't do movies for minorities, which is absurd, as a result of I've performed 30 years of music movies and half of them are hip-hop.” Finally, he stated, the furor turned an inspiration. “I assumed, that is insane — it doesn’t matter what I write or what I say, they only need to be social media bullies. And the character of even speaking about race is so constricted behind the accusation, and never over the evaluation, and I assumed, Wow, there's a film.“
Joseph Kahn on the Toronto Worldwide Movie Competition
Maarten de Boer / BuzzFeed Information / Getty Pictures
Which is the place battle rap got here in. “There's an anger in me, and it solely gave the impression to be expressed by a world the place a white man and a black man may make utterly racist jokes towards one another, worse than something I've ever written, after which they go get a beer collectively,” Kahn defined. However along with its explicit hip-hop scene, Bodied additionally retains one foot on campus, the place woker-than-thou characters are proven making an attempt to one-up one another in round conversations about race, gender, class, and privilege. Probably the most provocative concepts the movie floats is that the vocabulary of social justice has been co-opted for verbal one-upmanship simply as aggressive as battle rap.
“I really feel generally like when individuals who can't outsmart me on-line, they'll simply return to my previous tweets and say, 'Look, he's racist, don't hearken to him.' It's soiled play,” Kahn says. “They don't know me. They're simply taking jokes, and saying that each one stereotyped jokes are racist, which I genuinely don’t consider. A joke is a contradiction you agree with. Simply because the contradiction is harmful doesn't imply you don't agree with it.” Kahn sees Bodied as embracing that sense of hazard, whereas acknowledging that the intersection he's been occupying between an incendiary indie film and younger music fandom will be “messy and ugly.”
But additionally, possibly, advantageous? Bodied, which was well-received at TIFF, has but to cement a distributor, however Kahn's been tweeting about getting multiple offers. And definitely, for Kahn, all the eye didn't harm in attending to this place, even when a lot of it was indignant. “I don't assume it actually means a lot,” he stated of the web uproar. “I believe, on one degree, it's simply blowing up the pop stan world,” which then turns into a conduit to attract extra promotion of his movie work, particularly relating to his already notorious LA Times interview through which he joked, “Beyoncé copied 'Dangerous Blood.'” “What number of indie movies get linked tons of of occasions in an interview with a filmmaker speaking about race?” he identified. Then, not one to withstand, he added, “Thanks, Beyhive.”