Topics like wellness and self-care have gained popularity over the years and conversations around them have skyrocketed during the pandemic, yet the industry overall remains heavily whitewashed.

This is precisely the topic that anchors BC native Summan Kandola’s new documentary, Identity of Wellness.

Summan Kandola is an emerging documentary filmmaker and lifelong wellness student committed to opening the doors of wellness to everyone. Summan is a partner at Self Hired, a content production studio and emerging documentary studio that executive produced the documentary. Kandola is also the creator of The Mindfulness Deck, a 53-card wellness deck designed “to bring real self-care to your daily life.” 

Identity of Wellness explores the deep impact of colonization and capitalism in the wellness industry, and the impact this continues to have on members of the BIPOC community navigating this industry.

As someone who has also been a part of the health and wellness industry for several years, this documentary feels like a door opener for many important conversations. Wellness practices have been around since the beginning of time, and many of the most popular ones such as yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, originate back to Eastern countries such as Japan, Indonesia and India. 

Yet in our modern day settings, those originating from the East often find themselves feeling excluded from these spaces in the Western world.

Kandola, who has been a wellness student since the age of 13, said this caused her to ask questions.

“[I asked myself,]  why don’t I belong in these spaces? Why don’t I look like what the media image of wellness is? What is white wellness?” she said in an interview with 5XPress.

These questions soon blossomed into her first film adventure. 

“I think I've been creating this film since I was a kid,” said Kandola.

 “As I would continue to go through these spaces I think I would almost blame these feelings of ‘is this all in my head’ to where I grew up. I grew up in New Westminster and then I moved to Burnaby and then I went to college in Victoria. So I was always in these very white spaces and I was like “oh is this why I feel this way?”

As she began to think more critically about her own experiences, Kandola started to think about how wellness spaces affected others in her life as well. 

“And that’s why I started asking these questions. And then I was like why am I the only brown person on this trail and I feel like if I get too loud I’m gonna get yelled at.”

She realized the more she thought about it that there were so many instances where this experience was relevant.

“I wanted to do a five minute piece on this, and [my team members] were like this is not a 5 minute piece, this is a movie,” she said.

 “It’s also much bigger than the idea of white wellness. I think white wellness is where we start. That’s the surface level.”

Identity of Wellness was filmed over the course of 10 months and explores conversations with a variety of wellness professionals, including 5X’s very own marketing director Bhavneet Toor, and Farinaz Lari, the first Iranian female kickboxing champion.

The stunning backdrop of the British Columbian mountains and lakes provides a beautifully serene environment to explore this important topic and makes difficult conversations easier to digest. 

“When we hear the word wellness I think we think of very ‘soft’ things and I’m not like that. I’m a riot and I know that,” Kandola said.

“I really wanted to make sure that I didn’t just include meditation and yoga because there’s these perceptions of oh this is what wellness is. I included martial arts and outdoor sports and activities because whatever you do that makes you feel better and puts you in a meditative state is your form of wellness”. 

When asked about what she hopes people will take away from this film, Kandola replied “I hope people get more curious about their own relationship with wellness and what being well means to them and taking stock of where they’re at in their own consciousness journey.”

Identity of Wellness will be releasing September 16th  on CBC Gem, and on September 17th on CBC Broadcast at 8 PM PST.

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