WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO CREATE CABIN FEVER?
My experience with my own brain-health challenges, particularly Schizophrenia (a condition I live with, or alternative wiring as I call it) are the primary catalyst for this film. Would you believe that there are no support groups in South Africa focusing on people living with Schizophrenia? Family and friends, while supportive, can never truly understand what a psychotic-reality feels like. Let’s not even get into the stigma around mental health in general. All of this leads to a really lonely feeling, something I’ve felt weighing on me for much of my life.
As you can see through the film, this isolation can lead to a very dark place. So, ultimately, I wanted to have an open and honest conversation about brain-health, using lockdown as an allegory for dissociation. I hope that the film opens up a discourse to have that conversation. COVID-19 is a brutal killer, but suicide steals a shocking number of people each year, particularly the youth. Depression and other conditions cripple many people. Why are we not talking about this with the same fervour that we’ve charged at 2020’s coronavirus? I think that mental health is one of the most important challenges that we, as a young population seeking to define the future, face. It’s something I hope that we can start talking about more and more.
FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW, WHAT IS CABIN FEVER ABOUT?
One of my favourite things as an artist is learning more about my art through the eyes of the viewer. I think a third-party interpretation adds such a rich and textured layer to my message, helping make it more universal.
But of course there is an intent, as an artist. I think it’s clear pretty early on that the film is set during the lockdown that we as South Africans (and most of the world) endured this year. The Boy – a single character played by multiple actors as a way of exploring my own dissociation experiences of living with Schizophrenia – is trapped within a blank space that acts as both his apartment and his psyche. This blank space, a white infinity-walled studio, is an ode to my love of image-making, but it also strips bare the environment, pushing the viewer to focus deeper the superficial.
Throughout the film, The Boy swings between various states. Ultimately, isolation leads to dissociation, which leads to a total loss of connection to “the real world” through the loss of self. In the doctrine of recovery, they teach that the opposite of addiction is connection. For me, this film was a chance to connect what’s going on in my head with the experiences of others, hopefully building bridges between isolated souls. Our story, the story of those left out by centuries of social conditioning, is the story of tomorrow.
HOW DID COVID-19 AFFECT THE WAY THAT YOU ARE DOING THINGS GOING FORWARD?
I think that the fundamental shift within myself after enduring, unlearning and re-learning throughout 2020 is that everything we do – every cent we spend, every post we like or share, every bit of content we view, every decision we make, big and small – is a vote towards the future we want to live in. Every purchase, every project, every person we align with, is a way to define that future, and it’s our collective consciousness that decides which dimension we ultimately settle on and share. I take responsibility for my involvement in future-making and I’m encouraged by the movement of people doing the same. But we are a loud minority – those in the middle, dwelling in self-absorption and apathy still need to be swayed. Their inaction also defines our future. We’re all future-makers. Now, let’s see what we can come with!
WHAT DID YOU DO DURING THE “DO-NOT-LEAVE-HOME” LEVEL OF LOCKDOWN?
The co-producer on this project, Allana Foster-Finley, keeps reminding me: find the power in the pause. So, that became my mantra. I was lucky enough to spend all of hard lockdown in Johannesburg with my parents, my dog, Waffle – and a treadmill. I was also blessed to have work to do, virtually, to keep my bills paid. So, all in all I was far more privileged than 90%+ of our countryfolk who barely weathered the storm. I cannot believe that food security is still a real issue for half, if not more, of South Africans. This is increasingly becoming an artistic theme, a community cause and a call to action for me.
HOW DID YOU PUT YOUR TEAM TOGETHER DURING LOCKDOWN AND PARANOIA?
I’m oh-so-blessed as a first-time director to have been supported by the incredible team that worked on this movie with me. Most of us have worked on other projects together, largely in fashion image-making and editorial. I wrote the film over the first few weeks of lockdown but, pretty much from its conception, I had an idea of who I wanted to collaborate with. We ran all casting, pre-production, rehearsals, even recces, via zoom – in fact, the first time I met some of the cast & crew was on our first day of filming. Filming took place following the necessary restrictions, as far as possible, and most of post-production was done virtually, too. I’m very much the kind of collaborator that likes to sit in the same room as my team, so this was tough at times. But, I think it actually pushed us to be more efficient in the end – an unimagined result of the pandemic for so many people.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHAT YOU TAKE ON?
For the first 10 years of my career, the answer – if I was honest – would have been prestige. I was determinedly headed toward Vogue Paris, so anything in line with that rose to the top of the list. Now, I choose to align myself with projects and people who stand for the same world that I do. I’ve had the privilege to be able to refuse jobs and collaborators – even in pandemic-desperation – because they no longer fit with my values and the future that I’d like to live in. This is not a universal privilege, especially in South Africa, so I still deeply respect people who work to create livelihoods without being able to refuse. But, I think every time we have the chance to say “No” in the face of something that doesn’t sit right, we’re playing a small part in the necessary course correction needed for a more just future.
WHAT WILL YOUR LEGACY BE?
I try not to think about my legacy much. As an old-soul and a fatalist, I can get so wrapped up in the world after my own. So, instead I focus on impact. What is the impact of this decision? What is the impact of this image or this film or this conversation? What impact am I having on my world, while I’m here? I try to see each decision or action through this lens. Sure, it’s difficult, draining even. But it makes me a better artist and a better citizen, globally and of my community, and truly, that’s what I’m after. I hope that when people think of my art and the way I live my life, which is an art in of itself, that they will think I had some impact in their life, leaving a mark or opening a door that allows us all to talk about the things that have been unmentionable until now: untempered justice and unabashed joy for the marginalised; the individual’s right to authenticity, as defined by themself; and that individual’s responsibility to their community. This is why queer rights, social issues and the brain-health conversation are so important to me – unlearning to re-imagine the future. So, I’m going to turn this question over to the reader of this feature: what will your impact be?
SIMPLICITY VS. CHAOS?
I think the right answer is “balance”, right? But, I’m a textbook Scorpio, living with Schizophrenia and recovering from substance abuse issues, so chaos has been the name of the game I’ve played for the longest time. I think you can see bits of that in the film – chaos is so often a way to or a symptom of dissociation. But I also think chaos offers an opportunity for re-ordering and re-defining – when things are up in the air, the future can be re-written.
I can tell you that as I begin the adventure that is my 30s, I’m very drawn to the word “simplicity”. Simplicity in my consumption. Simplicity in my way of living. Simplicity in my understanding of what’s really important in life. It’s a tightrope.
Balance, right? I think that’s what all art is, really – an artist’s attempt at achieving this elusive state of being. At least that’s what my art is about, anyway.
K Y B X S H X F F
pronounced : ky bosh’off
pronouns : they / them / their
Ky Bxshxff is a Cape Town-based mythmaker and multi-hyphenate, working in fashion, film and phrasing.
They create mythologies which seek to re-interpret the past as a way to re-imagine a possible future, working as a creative director, stylist & fashion editor, wordsmith & copywriter, and filmmaker.
Ky is currently a Contributing Editor at @africaisnowmagazine, while working on a series of short films. Their directorial debut and the first in the series, CABIN FEVER, will be released on 15 October. Previously, Ky was Fashion Director at A Fashion Friend (a pioneering local online fashion magazine) and worked as an editorial copywriter for some of SA’s most-loved retailers, including a stint at global agency, M&C Saatchi Abel.
They cut their teeth working at African Fashion International, owner and operator of Joburg, Cape Town and Africa Fashion Weeks (at that time, sponsored by Mercedes-Benz), for nearly five years, which Ky refers to as “my fashion MBA”. In this time, they worked from intern to creative director; fashion buyer; PR officer; project manager; designer development head; runway producer; and stylist; variously for the fashion weeks, the Africa Fashion Awards and the designer development wing. He has also worked closely with SA Menswear Week, since its inception. Ky kicked off their career as Assistant Editor at VOILA! Magazine, a Johannesburg-based fashion publication.
Terence Masamuna | @david_terence94
Brandon Alastair | @brandonalastair
Benjamin Defty | @benjamindefty
Ramsey Lewis | @kroeskop_ramsey
Joshua Higgs | @jhiggso
Written and Directed by Ky Bxshxff | @kybxshxff
Director of Photography | Jesse Fine | @jesse.fine
Assistant Director / 2nd Unit Director | Wesley JvR | @wesleyjvonroy
Music Director | Ntokozo Mzimela | @o_rah_
Production Designer | Raphael Blue Bromilow | @raphael_blues
Styling & Wardrobe | Gregory Russill | @gregory_russill
Hair & Makeup | Amy-Louise Tourell @amylouise_makeup_
DOP’s Assistant & BTS Images | Janelka Lubbinge | @_melkweg_
Music Produced by Ntokozo Mzimela & Tristan de Beer | @o_rah_ & @tristan.connor.debeer
Additional Vocals/Instrumentals | Tristan de Beer & James Harvey | @tristan.connor.debeer & @james.a.harvey
Music Mastered by Eldon Quirk
Produced by Ky Bxshxff & Allana Foster-Finely | @phillyjawninjoburg