The printed word is dead. That’s what we have been told. It’s too expensive, cumbersome and environmentally unfriendly, especially when we have the internet, with its limitless word counts and instantaneous editing functions. Film criticism is dead too. Nobody wants to read a thousand words of opinionated, self-indulgent narrow-mindedness when a simple aggregate score can tell you whether a film’s worth watching or not.
And yet, there is a new Asian film magazine on the scene that begs to differ. NANG, published by Davide Cazzaro, promises a very specific manifesto, carefully curated content and a limited run of just 10 issues. As is stated on the magazine’s website:
“Published twice a year over a period of five years, NANG’s ambition is to build a wonderfully rich and profound collection of words and images on cinema, for knowledge, inspiration, and enjoyment.”
NANG is unlike a traditional film-focused publication, in that it doesn’t feature news, reviews, festival coverage or set visits. Instead it takes a more academic and investigative approach. Each issue focuses on a particular area of filmmaking, or concept about how we create and digest the art-form, helmed by guest editors and a rotating team of contributors.
Issue 1, published late last year, honed in on the oft-neglected art of screenwriting and the role of the script and scriptwriter in the filmmaking process. Built around a dozen or so interviews with working writers from around Asia, the magazine offers a fascinating collage of the universal struggles of the scribe, how an industry built on star power and the auteur theory treats the humble wordsmith, as well as exploring some legitimate hurdles and archaic practices in dire need of reform.
Chung Seo-kyung speaks about her frequent collaborations with South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook. The pair created Lady Vengeance, Thirst and more recently The Handmaiden together. Thai filmmaker Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit discusses his transition from screenwriter to director of recent festival hits Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy and Heart Attack. Singaporean journalist-turned-filmmaker Ken Kwek (Unlucky Plaza) explains how the frustrations of working in the city's heavily censored media drove him into filmmaking, and how having his work banned may have actually helped his career.
Malaysia’s Alfie Palermo talks to guest editor Ben Slater about his beginnings in television, ongoing struggles with state censorship and the more hopeful efforts of the Screenwriters' Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. You can also read a fantastic article from sometime ScreenAnarchy contributor Oggs Cruz, in which he interviews a number of writers working in the Filipino film industry, and how the influence of directors like Brillante Mendoza (Kinatay, Ma’ Rosa) and veteran screenwriter Armando “Bin” Lao has shaped the local industry.
Throughout the magazine there are also published excerpts from a number of the featured writers’ screenplays - often including original handwritten notes and amendments - to help readers understand the creative journeys of these films before the cameras started rolling.
Beyond the exceptionally well researched and written content, NANG is also a gorgeously presented publication, printed by Göteborgstryckeriet in Sweden. Carefully bound on high quality paper, NANG feels as beautiful as it looks, and was a pleasure to read from cover to cover.
I wholeheartedly recommend NANG to anyone with more than a passing interest in Asian cinema, who is eager to explore beyond the regular haunts of Japan and Hong Kong, and discover what is really happening in the far-flung corners of Asia's film industry right now.
Issue 2, entitled Scars And Death, is now on sale at a selection of high-profile retail outlets around the world, or more easily from the magazine’s official website
. There you can learn more about the magazine's publication, its creators and their mission, purchase standalone issues, or better yet, subscribe to NANG for the duration of its run, which promises to be a fascinating and entertaining ride.
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