Nana Esi’s short film poses a subtle challenge to the narratives of what it means to love and who is deserving of love.
On Valentine’s day, Nana Esi released her film, ‘Is it my turn 4 love?’. She comments on “black love and what you feel when you’re in love from the physical aspect to the spiritual aspect.” Dispersed throughout the film are images and moments reminding the black viewer – especially the black woman – that love is indeed for them.
The film begins with an amalgamation of clips of a black woman in her bonnet and her partner. Nana Esi remarked on the significance of the bonnet – “ultimately, I just wanted the black girl to be able to see herself.” And following the perpetual online debates on the acceptability of wearing bonnets – mainly when dating – this small symbol becomes a political statement.
Dispersed across the film, small gems play to this idea that love is for everyone. Love and romantic experiences are not racialised nor exclusive. Nana Esi told me about these fine details: “When the background song says ‘Maybe it’s your turn,’ a title comes up with the words ‘Is it my turn 4 love?’ and then the song lyrics repeat ‘I think it’s just your turn.’ It’s like there’s a conversation within the film, but also it’s about my audience. It’s about telling them that love is for them”.
And the love that Nana Esi represents defies the tropes that we are all too familiar with. Within her work, she challenges the dominance and glorification of hardship within relationships. Nana Esi shows uninterrupted love. The film is composed mainly of a zoom-out shot with the couple, Ade Oyejobi and Estelle Black, intensely gazing at each other. This shot is sustained through contrasting environments like the streets of central London, kaleidoscope lighting, etc. But while the location is variable, the constant is them.
In the film, there is no mention of sex and sexuality, either. “While these things are important, I wanted to focus on a love that is spiritual.” And for her, spiritual love is not centered on the physical. Nana Esi’s work dances in the grey space between intimacy and sexuality. It harks back to perhaps more romantic, traditional interpretations of love but in a timeless way.
Director and stylist – Nana Esi Adjei-Ampofo
Director of photography – D’Andre L-J Ekow Bondzie
Actors – Ade Oyejobi and Estelle Black
Photography – Emily White
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