Foreword: Green Renaissance is made up of two self-funded filmmakers residing in South Africa. They seek to spread positive messages from uncovering personal stories of ordinary people on film. The team has currently captured conversations with more than 170 people on Youtube, all of which revolves around the universal themes of love, nature and even death. Read their first interview with us here.
The year 2020 has definitely left an indelible mark in our minds, as COVID-19 rages on in different parts of the world. Through a series of lockdowns and restrictions, connectivity in real life has become a huge concern for everyone. Ironically, despite being more connected to our friends and family virtually thanks to the internet era, we find ourselves craving more in-human interaction and longing for the chance to step out into nature.
This was precisely what I felt when I first chanced upon the films made by Green Renaissance on Youtube. Revolving around the personal stories of ordinary people that we see around us, they told universal messages such as love, nature, and even death with authenticity. Being awed and inspired by the filmography and messages shared through the film, I reached out to Michael and Justine of Green Renaissance for an informal chat.
People generally want to be heard
Living off-grid outside of Cape Town in South Africa, the couple had been filming these videos starting from 4 years ago (Read how they turned their dreams to reality here). Given that they upload videos weekly, I was really interested in how they got their interviewees to be comfortable in sharing their deepest secrets in front of the camera within a short filming time frame. The answer to that was, “Being genuine is most important when we are speaking to the person. ”
In a normal interview, Michael sits down with a cup of coffee and conducts the interview in person looking into their eyes, not through a camera. At times, he might share his own personal experiences or fears as well, opening up a conversation on what the person might think of it. He never knows where the conversation will lead them to. He shared that people usually end up sharing more, because they felt that he was genuinely interested in their lives, and people generally want to be heard.
I shared with Michael that this was exactly what I felt too. Living in a world dominated by social media, it has made it easier for everyone to share our opinions to the world with just a single click of a button, but that’s where voices get lost. We are constantly on the go, drowning out in voices, that we seek for someone who would listen to our stories with no other intention than just giving a listening ear. I suppose that was what made Green Renaissance stand out in the first place to many of their Youtube supporters because as Michael shared, “It’s never about us, but the stories shared by the ones around us that everyone could relate to in one way or another.”
Are we giving back enough to nature?
Nature is a huge recurring theme in all their films. I asked how nature spoke to them through all the films they’ve done. Even before finishing the sentence, I could see their enthusiasm radiating through the screen at the talk of nature.
“It (nature) is something that speaks very, very profoundly and deeply to us,” Michael shared. Growing up in a place surrounded by nature, and with his line of work deeply connected to nature, he had found his happiest memories often associated with it. Even just sitting beside the river, or building sandcastles by the sea, those were simple things he found peace in.
Peace was a common feeling shared by many others too. In their everyday lives, they have found many people suffering from traumatic experiences who have been healed by nature. “We don’t know how it happens, but all we know is that nature speaks to your soul. We met this lady that shared whenever she was angry or having an argument with her husband, he would say, ‘the roses need a bit of pruning’. She would go outside, and two hours later, she’d be back, happy and whistling, but she never knew why.”
Filming nature and sharing people’s stories on what nature has done for them, was a way of Green Renaissance giving back. This sparked an off-track question from me: “Do you think that we do give back enough then? Because as humans, the amount of times we take something from nature seems to be so much larger than what we give back. “
“The short and simple answer is that we can do a lot more,” Michael explained. “Unless we are one of those indigenious people who live in balance with nature, we do not give back enough.” But he urges us not to be depressed by the thought of it, because it can be negative in today’s world to be depressed by every single product we eat or buy off the shelves. Instead, he shared that we can be kinder to ourselves and say, “Perhaps I can’t change everything, but I’ll start with small steps. It could be just using one less plastic straw, or eating less meat. Anything works.”
He believes there is a need for less judgement in society, which has been brought on by social media. There was much fear and negativity.This was what also sparked them to create these films. Sending out good messages on the internet would have a better effect than making people feel guilty or depressed about every single decision made.
Before ending off our conversation, Michael shared that through filming 170 people, they have learnt that despite the world seemingly more polarised than ever, it is interesting to see that we humans are actually quite similar. We have the same fears, or anguish, and hopes. If we are ever feeling lost, we can speak to other people, and really listen to what they say. From the experiences from those living around us, we can find a new perspective of looking at life.
“We live in a beautiful world surrounded by beautiful people everywhere, so just start seeing it. Realise those things that don’t make you feel happy, and walk away from it. If anything on social media or news makes you feel depressed, put down your phone and go have a walk outside.” Being committed to understanding what we like and don’t like is crucial to knowing one self, and that’s when things will come to you.
Despite a 6 hour difference between South Africa and Singapore, I related deeply on a personal level with what they had shared with me. It was interesting how that had been our only conversation, but meeting each other virtually for the first time, I was more than grateful for them being so open in sharing their personal experiences with me.
Regardless in-person or through the screen, the universal message still shines through at the end of the day, that we are all connected in one way or another through experiences. When we open our hearts and minds to really listen, we learn so much more from one another by connecting with them, and that is what ultimately brings people all over the world together.
Joanna Ng is the Community Coordinator at Oasis, by KrASIA. Her time in Shanghai has broadened her horizons and inspired her to share personal stories of not only herself, but others as well. When she’s not hearing stories, she’s usually pursuing her passions in the Chinese Language and Culture, and writing her thoughts on the world reflected in her eyes.
Disclaimer: All content is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the writer. If you’d like to contribute, you can apply here.