Rebirth

A Film

By Elif Gorken and Ethan Barnnet
Interview by Sultana


Sultana: I wanted to ask about the format of the video itself, especially the clips of each of you doing things with a voiceover that was at the same time a glimpse while also so intimate if that makes sense. What was the purpose of expressing the ways we carry burdens on our own versus wanting human connection in the way that you have in the video, where the video itself feels like a mixture of that push and pull?

Elif Gorken: The format of the video is a reflection of our scattered feelings. We played a lot with different editing styles until we agreed on what felt truest to the feeling of the film. This was also the first time Ethan and I collaborated on a creative project, and we’ve been discussing how eye-opening it has been to collab. We were talking a lot about intimacy because of events happening in our personal lives and the format of the video is a result of us intentionally experimenting.

Ethan Scott Barnett: Yeah, feelings, thoughts…understanding friendship and recognizing that friendship as revolutionary. Elif and I met at Brooklyn College 3 years ago in a class called “Transnational America”, Sultana, I think you were the glue to our bond. Anyway, it discussed the ways Iraq viewed America and America viewed Iraq through film and literature.  We’re still grappling with transnational forms of love and identity. I think the film is so intimate because we’re both growing into our own as cultural workers. Longing for human connection and understanding the burdens and blessings of humanity felt like key aspects to this journey.

Sultana: Do you think being in love with other people or just loving other people in our lives while also not loving ourselves has to do with just loving ourselves or us not being able to be connected with our own self? To clarify, are we out of touch with what we want, and it is that disconnection rather than just loving ourselves that we struggle with self-love? Do we know ourselves fully and in what ways we need to give love to ourselves? Because when we love others, there’s a feedback or someone else responding to us, but with self-love there needs to be an aspect of being able to confront our deepest aspects to attain a form of response from us and to us. In short, how can we know what self-love looks like when we might be disconnected from ourselves, and how do we bridge the two?

EG: Yes. I believe the journey of self-love begins with re-connecting to yourself. Though it’s particularly hard to be connected to ones self when you’re in a place of coping and hurting. I lose touch with myself easily and it takes me a long time to remember who I am, connect back to my body and spirit. I think we bridge the gap between self-love and our (dis)connectedness through consistent practices of self-care and community-care. Remembering that we are part of a whole, that this is a process and we’re here to cherish each other, hold each other and guide each other through this journey.

EB: That’s such a beautiful way to think about it. I would just add that, self-love and community-care look different as time goes on. You change and your community changes, I think it’s important that we make sure our methods of care advance as our boundaries transform.

Sultana: I agree with Elif, we as human beings carry a lot of burdens on ourselves and at the same time, we crave human connection and wanting people to feel like home. My question is, what about the culture that we live in makes us feel these two polar emotions so heavily? Would it be shame of oversharing? The ways terms become overused such as having people do “emotional labour”? Why is there a push for people to rely on others on the surface and then do you think it becomes a form of guilt when we share our burdens?

EG: Capitalism intentionally isolates us to make us experience so much loneliness and alienation to the point where we cling to any sign of basic human decency. There’s so much guilt around oversharing and neediness because it’s viewed as a weakness in a society that glorifies self-reliance. It’s okay to need people. It’s okay to rely on people. It’s okay to want to feel heard and seen.

EB: Yeah, we’re definitely at a point where we pick and choose how much vulnerability we want from people. I think that comes from social media/consumption culture/capitalism/etc. My community keeps me alive, their love, ideas and tenderness is what gives me my…everything. You can’t overshare with me, but I also know that people have memories and traumas that can be painful, so it’s important to check in with folks before you share your burdens, nothing is worse than a communication failure when you’re trying to heal a part of your soul.

Sultana: Also, just as a general question because I think creating this video has a sense of catharsis, how did making the video feel for both of you? Was it pre-planned or thought about as you were speaking to each other? 

EG: Catharsis is a very true way to describe it. This definitely wasn’t pre-planned. We were chillin at Ethans grandmothers’ house and I just had the urge to record our conversations using my iphone. I wasn’t sure what we’d do with the recording but I wanted to record it. We really just went with our gut. We didn’t overthink anything.

EB: Elif forced me to get out of my head and just be, I’ve been in the public eye lately and it’s really taken a toll on me. You don’t realize how guarded you are until you’re embracing the company of a loved one and let the tension of the world leave your body. We made the film because we had no choice but to. We live to film and we film to live.

Sultana: I also wanted to ask, when we form intimate and specifically romantic relationships with other people, why do you think that becomes a space where we feel emotions that we carry on our own and those emotions come to the surface? Particularly, I am thinking about what Ethan mentioned about everything getting to a climax when we are in relationships. So much of relationships brings about our own experiences and I agree, we need other ways to feel and understand ourselves where there isn’t this disconnect and then we just get to a climax. 

EG: I think this is really what the film is centered around. It’s questioning the significance of romantic love in our current culture and de-centering romantic love to center friendship, chosen family and community care. I think that’s the point we arrived at, was that we just believe in unconditional love that’s rooted in radical love, revolution and community. We show up for each other in meaningful & intentional ways as a powerful alternative to the transactional relationships capitalism forces us to create.

EB: I’m taking a break from traditional partnerships. I’m not in a place to reach that climax with any one person at the moment. I need collective liberation. I want to see dozens of people caring for one another. I want that climax to send shock waves of hope, joy and strength through the community. Rebirth is a proclamation to oppressed people all across the world that I love you and I will fight for you. We’re not alone. From Palestine to Sudan to Puerto Rico to the Amazon to Los Angeles, we’re fighting together!