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Filipino exchange student takes film on poverty to Pyongyang

Nash Ang, a Filipino exchange student at Korea National University of Arts, poses for a photo during an interview at a cafe in Seoul on Monday. (Photo by Philip Iglauer/The Korea Herald)

Publication Date : 19-09-2012


With a tuft of bushy blond bangs, his slight frame and beaming smile held up designer jeans and a trendy school bag. But Nash Ang’s boyishness belied a cinematic penchant for revealing the grueling poverty in the Philippines.

In his hour-long documentary, Live To Dive (Lusong), Ang explores how Totoy, 11, and Pirot, 10, eke out a living for their families by diving for scraps of garbage like discarded plastic bottles and bits of metal in the severely polluted waters beside the ramshackle area of Puting Bato.

But the children are not concerned with the foul waters they dive in. Something beneath the dank sea is rumored to have taken an 8-year-old girl just days before.

"Some people in the Philippines are not aware of the extreme poverty that exists there,” Ang said. “I am not sure I have anything specific in mind, but I expect the initial reaction from people who see the film to be a feeling of pity,” Ang said Monday in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Ang’s cinematic eye for presenting heart-wrenching poverty with disarming frankness garnered attention his film Water Ghetto screened at the DMZ Korean International Documentary Film Festival last year. Ang received a full scholarship to study at Korea National University of Arts, the nation’s most prestigious film school.

Now he is taking his film to North Korea.

With the help of a Chinese friend who he knows only as “John” and Koryo Tours, a travel agency specialising in trips to the reclusive state, Ang will depart for North Korea by way of China. Lusong was entered in the official selection category in the week-long 13th Pyong Yang International Film Festival which starts Thursday.

“Yeah, it does seem somewhat unique, doesn’t it,” Ang said, as if to himself. “Two documentary films by the same filmmaker and one divided country, me, living on one side and going to visit the other side.”

Nick Bonner, the man behind Beijing-based Koryo Tours, said he helped bring Lusong to the Pyongyang film festival because he believes it’s important for local audiences there to get a glimpse of films outside North Korea.

“In 2004, we took Bend It Like Beckham to the Pyongyang International Film Festival and it was seen by over 12,000 locals. In December 2010, we helped the British Embassy with getting the film to be the first Western film broadcast throughout the whole of North Korea,” Bonner said by email.

“This year we are also attending the festival with our feature film shot in North Korea, Comrade Kim Goes Flying, which will also screen at the Busan International Film Festival.

“All we can do as documentary filmmakers is open the eyes of those who see our films. Films are a powerful medium to motivate people into action and I hope I can provoke people into positive action,” he said.


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