NANG - Issue 0
The EYE Study magazine collection has gained a new gem: NANG. This brand new magazine has just issued its first edition: “0” (Zero). This “cinema-related publishing project”, as publisher & editor-in-chief Davide Cazzaro calls it, focusses in-depth on specific themes related to cinema in Asia. The plan is to publish just 10 issues: one issue every six months. Remarkable as this might sound, in the light of cinema it makes perfect sense. Cazzaro: “as every true storyteller would tell you, a story should always have a beginning, a middle, and an end – no matter how anticipated or abrupt.”
By all means, NANG seems the manifestation of a new sort of cinema magazine, right from its first issue. The choice for a paper magazine without any digital counterpart, is admirable: a deliberate choice for a tactile and permanent medium. Much like film perhaps?
Even more notable is the choice that is made for terming NANG’s focus as ‘cinema in Asia’ instead of coining the maybe more eminent term ‘Asian cinema’. In line with tendencies we have seen throughout filmmaking worldwide genres, styles, methods and geographical distinctions have been blurring. Less and less filmmakers have been labeling themselves by the distinctions we were taught in film history class, nor have they been asked to do so. For NANG this means that, as Cazarro explains:
“Asia, and cinema in Asia, are not singular and fixed but rather plural and fluid (not to mention that what defines “Asia” and “cinema in Asia” in the first place is far from evident or universal). (…) A short note on semantics: cinema in Asia and Asian cinema will be used interchangeably. Overall, however, preference tends to go to the former particularly when thinking that the latter is often reduced to a catch-all marketing label or a shorthand descriptor for a cinema that is associated with certain feelings of “Asian-ness.”).”
Although not openly part of NANG’s focus, dealing with issues around exoticism and orientalization in the 21st century is something that might be promising for coming issues and articles by guest writers. Acknowledging the ever present difficulties around this head on, NANG takes a refreshing editorial stance without sacrificing any of the plans it has set out for itself. Interesting in this light is moreover the choice for English and moreover how NANG accounts for this by stating this is purely for an accessibility reason, not a political, cultural or linguistic one.
The magazine’s title, NANG, stands for more explanations than one. Coming from the Thai language, it can simply refer to skin or leather, but moreover can it be explained as to refer to the shadow puppets made from translucent leather used for shadow plays, one of the earliest forms of moving images. Nowadays, ‘nang’ is still used in Thai language to refer to any performance involving light and screen. In this way, the magazine marks itself clearly in the history of cinema in Asia, where shadow plays lay deeply embedded the joint histories of countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. This historical trace can directly be seen from the magazine's cover: the title is formed by letters that are pressed out of the paper, through which the light falls and plays a shadow game on the first page. Here, history comes together with current day cinema.
Leafing through a beautifully laid-out, print-only cinema magazine, one could not be any more excited about the coming issues. NANG’s issue 0 gives a glimpse of what the coming three issues will contain: the first (September 2016) will revolve around the theme of screenwriting, the second (April 2017) around the vitality of cinema in current day media environments and the third (September 2017) around fiction.
Feel welcome to browse through this and forthcoming issues in the EYE Study, opening October 2016. If you are interested in film magazines focusing on cinema in Asia, do check some of the other sources in our library, such as Bioscope: South Eastern Screen Studies and the discontinued Osian’s Cinemaya: the Asian Film Quarterly.