Film | Dillion Phiri | 21 October, 2016
Creative Nestlings in partnership with the British Council Connect ZA presents a series of talks around filmmaking featuring British filmmaker Remani Love. Remani Love Doc is an independent documentary exploring the concept of self-love, personal growth, and identity through insights from eight women of varying ages. Founded by Remani Love who wrote, directed and produced the short film. We explored her journey and got inspired by her pursuit of self-love.
Koketso Masuluke: Please introduce yourself, who you are and what you do?
Remani Love: I am a recent graduate trying to find her place in the world, I believe in the importance of taking time out to follow your creative pursuits. I write and make film mainly for the purpose of self-expression, healing, and greater self-awareness. Inspired by all women – brave or afraid, yellow or green, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, family members, friends and strangers. I don’t think we share enough; our thoughts, true feelings as well as our struggles, I believe that if we were a little more transparent the possibilities of collective personal growth would be limitless. I want to see more self-affirming spaces: on TV, social media, within our communities, within our families, and in our own minds. My project was inspired by something I wished existed: a safe space to speak my truth with people who are ready to listen
Koketso Masuluke: This project was inspired by your pursuit of self-love while you were still in university, tell us more about that.
Remani Love: My project, like most brilliant things in life, was born out of a crisis. I found myself in the final year of a degree that I can’t say I ever loved but yet consumed all of me and my time. By the time final year came about I was ready to tap the hell out! This resulted in visits to my personal tutor at least twice a week telling him I needed to leave, can’t do it, won’t do it.
As understanding as he was he seemed quite amused until one day, with a concerned look on his face he suggested I visit my doctor. During this time I tried every technique. I remember eating a strict green diet, hitting the gym, praying, visualization work, and affirmations, but none of these could keep the panic attacks and overwhelming stress away. Then it dawned on me – the consequence of not doing the ‘work’, that negative self-talk that I left unchallenged for all these years, and the price of not believing in myself and not looking deeper to understand why. I clearly understood in this particular moment that it was too late.
It was the first time I saw practically how my thoughts, feelings and the way I felt about myself directly affected my reality and created a barrier for me to achieve my goal. I wanted success, I wanted to defeat this elephant– but deep down I didn’t feel I deserved it, I wanted to believe in myself, but deep down I didn’t. This experience, to this day, is one my most valued lessons.
However, what I realized when I reflected was that the challenge was not really completing the degree, but more about conquering those limiting beliefs that weren’t allowing me to grow and the past hurts and issues I had internalized. So to be able to take myself to higher heights and truly work toward fulfilling my potential I had to go within myself and bit by bit I started doing the work.”
I concluded; I simply wouldn’t let something like this happen again. I promised myself to dedicate time to my personal development and not leave it on the back burner, no more ‘tomorrow’, not after I’ve ‘sorted out my career’ or wait for some other crisis to occur. I wanted self-love practically, now – not when I am 40 , not in my later years, not after another missed opportunity, not when my most important life decisions have already been made. NOW!
Self-love to me means healing. Healing any traumas you have been through,past hurts, warped perceptions you may have about yourself and the world in which we live and having the courage to face those dark places whilst having self-compassion.
Remani Love: Not long after my return from university, my sister-in-law took me to a get-together her friend was having for his birthday. My sister-in-law is in her early thirties and so it was an older crowd. As the night progressed there was a group of about five older women chatting about, and they invited me over to sit with them. A few hours later the discussion turned into a collective heart-to-heart. They discussed relationships, careers, and their lives.
One woman who I found particularly inspiring was a woman named Oluseyi ( who actually features in Love Doc) she spoke very openly about quitting her then high paid job to travel and find herself. She was celibate for five years and actively took herself on dates. She said she continued to do this alone until the feeling of loneliness had left her. I began to ask questions which each of the women gave their opinion and experience on. That conversation and feeling of being safe,connected and understood really impacted me. I wanted to recreate this for young women like myself. Hence, Love Doc was born.
Koketso Masuluke: Are there solutions to filling the void, that so many young women around the world, feel inside? If so, what are they?
Remani Love: It is difficult to prescribe a kind of ‘one-size fits all’ remedy to filling the void that so many women around the world feel inside – as healing and self-love are such a personal and intimate process.
However, some of the things I have learned from my own personal work and making the film are – naming your pain – what is creating the void? As crazy, superficial or super deep as it sounds name it, because only then you can recognize it will you be able to heal it.
Speak it – to someone you can trust, in a journal, a letter – there is a lot of release in speaking your truth (takes bravery, but super rewarding). Well-being and the truth pretty much go hand-in-hand.
Find help – I am a big advocate of culturally appropriate therapy – in our community therapy can be quite stigmatized – seen as for the weak or for someone with a serious mental health issue and it is simply not true. Most ‘successful’ people in the public eye speak about serious investment into their personal development and that often involves working through issues with someone who is qualified to help. Similarly, using the resources available to you – good podcasts, literature (sisters of the yam by Bell Hooks is a must-read!), YouTube, spiritual teachers whatever feels most authentic to you. We are fortunate to live in a time where the Black Millennial community are a lot more vocal about our issues, our identity – filmmakers such as Cecile Emeke, artists like Solange and her new album, creative female collectives such as ‘Gyal dem’ and ‘For Harriet’ are using DIY culture to produce forums where we can openly discuss ourselves using social media.
Remani Love: Making this doccie has influenced my view of the world in that It has reaffirmed the belief that I am not alone. I wasn’t alone in my feelings of inadequacy, grappling with my identity, feeling like I was the only one struggling to find self-love and the ‘how to’ to achieving it. It’s also taught me there is no age restriction – this is for all people, at any age and the importance of speaking inter-generationally and remembering your legacy.
I initially made this film as a self-exploratory piece and even though I knew that this film would be important, a number of women and men that have told me that they could relate and have been touched by it has been very overwhelming and I am still very humbled by that. Lastly, it has given me and others the hope and stamina to continue this process of self-discovery and personal development. When you hear older women speak about coming out of the other side – the sense of peace, contentment, joy of living, the strong sense of self and freedom is completely motivating. I am also keen to explore the stories of other women (and men) in the diaspora and find the nuances of their experiences.
Koketso Masuluke: Ever since you started this journey have your initial goals changed, or have they remained the same?
Remani Love: My initial goal has remained the same; take my own personal development seriously and inspire others to do the same. I always say I don’t feel like the word ‘project’ really gives justice to what I have created because, in essence, the ‘project’ I speak of has really been the process of working on and developing myself. What has grown and developed is my method of delivery and realizing the power of film and artistically where that can take the audience. It is this part that excites me most at the moment.Koketso Masuluke: What are you hoping your short film does for various people who will watch it?
Remani Love: After watching the film I hope that it normalizes Black women away from the negative and damaging stereotypes that we are routinely fed. I hope that it inspires others to reflect on their own personal journey of self-love, discovery, and healing. Also, the reminder that you are not alone in the challenges you face and that understanding alone is very comforting.
Remani love: So it has been 4 years since I realized the idea for the Remani Love Project and 3 years ‘in the making ‘of it. This matches the time I have spent actively working on myself. The search for self-love for me was going inward and connecting with my authentic self. The more I discover of her the more content I become. I also understand it to be a continuous journey. I will always have more growing and learning to do but compared to the person I was 4 years ago I am very pleased with the progress.
Koketso: What is the Remani Love Project?
Remani love: Love Doc is an independent documentary exploring the concept of self-love, personal growth, and identity. Inspired by the throwaway and slightly annoying notion of – ‘Just love yourself’. Through the insights of eight women, of varying ages Love Doc encourages us to take time out of our busy lives to understand our unique challenges and triumphs, in the hope of enhancing our journey towards self-love by sharing in other people’s journeys. Love Doc sits within the Remani Love Project (founded by Remani Love), which aims to promote personal development for ‘twenty-somethings’ (and older) actively in pursuit of self-love. It promotes self-love, sisterhood, and well-being.
Koketso Masuluke: Besides the film what other projects are you working on or would like to work on in the future?
Remani Love: The film is part of a wider project called the Remani Love Project. Through this, I want to develop workshops and retreats based on the topics raised in the film. Artistically I have a lot more ideas for written blogs and short films about a range of topics ( some serious, some not) that I would love to explore.
— Remani Love Project (@LoveRemani) October 19, 2016
Koketso Masuluke: Creative Nestlings in partnership with the British Council Connect ZA are making your tour to South Africa a reality, how are you feeling and what are you most looking forward to?
Remani Love: I am very excited and feel super blessed to be given the opportunity to come to South Africa. It will be my first time coming down to SA, I am looking forward to experiencing the culture, the beauty of South Africa, but most importantly understanding and hearing the stories of some of their citizens