Open City Documentary Festival 2018 – Focus: Hyphen


Curators Julian Ross and Maryam Tafakory introduce their special short film programme ‘Hyphen – An Evening with NANG‘, contextualising the connecting themes that run through the films showing and the discussion to follow.

“Let us start by inhabiting the hyphen. We are a small line, hovering in-between words. Please do not confuse us with an en-dash or em-dash! We are the smallest of dashes. […] There is no gap between us and the words around us. We are the gap” Sophie Hope (for NANG4)

In this programme, we are celebrating films that are neither this nor that, neither here nor there, neither inside nor outside, neither familiar nor foreign, neither home nor abroad. These films reside in a perpetual betwixt and between. We attempt to bring together works that consciously or unconsciously fuse cultures and are against dominant narrative systems and norms of form. Whilst they differ in many ways, they are broadly charged with notions of identity, language, displacement, territoriality and home, producing an accented language that communicates through gaps.

The films in this programme employ and explore these gaps between multiple cultures, between the Asian-British, the hyphen, the split identity. These works are not chosen merely for their displaced nature of the film or filmmaker but for the ways by which they have appropriated and engaged with this accented language inevitable in works of diasporic and exilic filmmakers.

To reflect the diversity of the hyphen, it was important for us to screen an eclectic range of works: a conceptual video on language from Korean-American multidisciplinary artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha; a non-fiction and digital animation hybrid portrait of British-Pakistani experience from Rehana Zaman; a digital animation by London-based Japanese artist Hiraki Sawa that captures intimacy and distance literally on the same page; a comedy showing a series of dates where a woman addresses the politics of the name for ethnic Chinese living in Indonesia; a portrait of an undocumented teenager, born-and-bred in Japan, whose mother migrated from Thailand; and, finally, two cousins wonder out loud about diasporic identity while wandering around London in the charmingly comedic Latifah and Himli’s Nomadic Uncle, presented on the artist’s own 16mm print.

Some of the artists and filmmakers presented in this program are also those to which we dedicate issue 4: IN & OUT of NANG magazine, a magazine on Asian cinema, which we were invited to co-edit and will be launching at this event. Bringing together artists who voluntarily or involuntarily moved outside their country of origin, this issue of the magazine takes a broad look at Asian ‘accented cinema’ and this program provides a glimpse into the diversity of the voices that the hyphen grants us. The issue will be sold at a discounted price of 17GBP and the screening will be followed by a panel discussion between Shama Khanna and Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn, who contributed essays to the issue, and artist Rehana Zaman. We will have the pleasure to moderate the conversation.