Aime Simone's documentary
(Credit: Aime Simone)

Exclusive: The premiere of Aime Simone’s documentary ‘The Long Way to Now’, a brutally honest take on mental health struggles

Aime Simone, a deeply creative soul, one was born and raised in Paris, has always found solace within his desire to forge art in any medium.

During his childhood, he fell victim to intense bullying, a contributing factor which led to significant mental trauma that developed in his early teenage years. Struggling to cope, he began to experience symptoms of PTSD. These PTSD symptoms developed into anorexia and, in the years that followed, physical injuries and operations.

In what he described as a never-ending period of turmoil, Simone would go on to experience multiple stays at clinics in an attempt to heal—yet his inner demons ultimately led to a tragic suicide attempt.

Attempting to recover from a tragic episode, Simone stuck his head into his journal and began a period of self-reflection. While music always offered a momentary escape, the artist would relentlessly pour his poetry onto paper and amassed a diary of material while spending a period of time at a clinic. Waiting for a moment of clarity, Simone was granted per permission to attend a Pete Doherty show at Paris’ Bus Palladium in 2012 and a remarkable exchange would alter his life forever.

While in the crowd, Simone threw his journal of work onto the stage and, accidentally, managed to hit Doherty slap bang in the face. Instead of reacting angrily to the unidentified missile, the former Libertines frontman began to read portions of Simone’s words to the sold-out crowd and, eventually, he was invited on stage and handed a guitar. From there on, Simone and Doherty would strike up a feverishly intense friendship, one which would result in years of songwriting collaborations and soul searching.

Doherty, a troubled character with demons of his own, began to offer Simone a sense of hope and one that allowed the French artist to remain on a steady path of self-acceptance and self-belief. “I want to break the taboos, I feel like eating disorders and mental illness are very much taboo,” he exclusively told Far Out. “People know about it of course and there’s ongoing conversation but it’s very slight and people are ashamed of talking about it – especially in industries like fashion and music.”

Simone’s attempt at breaking the social constraints of address mental health issues is to create The Long Way to Now, the breathtakingly honest documentary which follows his troubled life with unrelenting detail. The film tackles themes of severe mental health issues with eye-opening archival footage. “It’s always hard to watch for me,” he says of the film. “It’s uncomfortable to watch myself in the moment of struggle and I also feel like a completely different person now so it was a bit awkward but I can also make abstraction of the fact that this is me I see on screen and then take the documentary for what it is, I feel like it’s a real good piece of work, it’s very genuine and very sincere.

“Everything I’ve watched in the documentary, all the memories, all the experiences somehow the documentary help me process them.”

Simone, alongside his young family, detail a sometimes brutal path of overcoming personal struggles, learning to understand difficult conversations around anorexia, bulimia, pressure, stress and, ultimately, the terrible realisation that suicide is an ever-present thought.

Below, stream the documentary and view our full interview with its creator.

Aime Simone interview.

FO: What made you make such a personal film?

Simone: “I’ve always been super interested in watching documentaries from artists that I was into, watching a documentary when it’s well-made really brings something else out of the music, it makes you go deeper into the art and have a deeper connection to it.

“That was already a personal taste I had and I wanted to offer that possibility to other people that discovered the album. I feel like if somehow you really get into my story as a person, you will probably hear the music slightly differently.”

Would you say that making the film was a cathartic experience for you?

“In retrospect, yes it was but while we were doing it, we didn’t know we were doing it when we filmed it, it was mostly archives. Also when I met my partner, who I have a daughter with, she started to document our life and my music, my artistry and new experiences.

“It all came together very organically and I felt like right now was the perfect time to put it out.”

The film tells the story of how his partner Sonja helped heal him, how much did she help you?

“Only true love can heal you and when I met her, it dawned on me that this was the right person to face my issues with.

“I tend to hide behind my problems and perpetuate them when with her it felt automatic and I had to sort myself out and use music to do that.”

Was the film hard to watch back?

“It’s always hard to watch for me, it’s uncomfortable to watch myself in the moment of struggle and I also feel like a completely different person now so it was a bit awkward but I can also make abstraction of the fact that this is me I see on screen and then take the documentary for what it is, I feel like it’s a real good piece of work, it’s very genuine and very sincere.

“Everything I’ve watched in the documentary, all the memories, all the experiences somehow the documentary help me process them.”

The premiere of Aime Simone's documentary 'The Long Way to Now'
(Credit: Aime Simone)

Do you hope it will help others who are struggling with eating disorders or suicidal thoughts to know they are not alone?

“I want to break the taboos, I feel like eating disorders and mental illness are very much taboo. People know about it of course and there’s ongoing conversation but it’s very slight and people are ashamed of talking about it – especially in industries like fashion and music.

“I felt like if I was open, it would encourage people to be open themselves because if you’re not open there’s no way you can heal.”

Would a film like this have helped you as a fan if you saw an artist you liked be open about their struggles?

“Definitely, that was always something I was looking into subconsciously as I was watching documentaries. I was always interested in the struggles of an artist to see where the art was coming from and I could always connect deeper if I knew they were going through something somehow that was similar to me or different but similar in the pain it creates.

“I found artists that we’re in pain and most of the greatest artists had demons they were fighting with.”

Do you think this is why you found a kindred spirit when Pete Doherty took you under his wing?

“I think that was one of the first common grounds when we met was that we were both going through something difficult at the time as well as music and literature, of course. The fact that we could look each other in the eyes and almost understand each other almost without a word, you kind of feel when someone goes through something difficult in their life, you feel like you understand each other.

“It’s a sad thing but it’s also a beautiful thing to find this connection, it motivates you to step into the light, do your thing and never give up.”

And, of course, you have battled against your own personal struggles…

“It was a never-ending cycle, every day was the same and every day I was swearing would be the last time that I live my life like that and the next day I would do better but it would happen again. I would fail at recovering on a daily basis for almost five years, actually a decade or so if you count anorexia because I was also bulimic and addictions so all in all it took me like a decade to get out of this.

“Meeting somebody who has been through something as intense in their life creates this wonderful connection and you just want to recover and pave the way for something beautiful.”

How does it feel to finally have recovered and now be a father?

“I’m really grateful for my experiences and I’ve learnt so much through them. I’ve lived a lot, I’m still young but I’ve lived a lot and learnt a lot and I’ve grown a lot as an artist and a human being. Today I feel like I’m faced with different challenges but somehow I feel like I’ve developed skills from recovering from eating disorders and those skills I can apply to the new challenges.”

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