What is a zine? Is it a plane? Is it a bird? Is it a man flying around wearing his underwear on the outside? Or is it a mini magazine focused on a specific subject matter? For this edition of Inner View, we sit down with Mr Xrantarox Farid, the editor and everything guy of Gelanggang Filem, a zine focused on Malaysian films. He has produced a number of issues since the tail end of 2013, and I’m intrigued enough to find out more. We discuss the zine scene, the underground world, and the (potential) Indonesian connection.
Hi Farid! Let’s start at the beginning. Where do you come from and what do you do?
Hi, thanks for interviewing me! First of all, my name is Farid, but people know me as Xrantarox. At Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), people know me as Harry. I come from Kota Bharu, Kelantan. I began my career as a freelance writer for several music magazines and zines such as Karisma. I’m currently studying at UiTM, in the Screen programme at the Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation (FiTA).
What got you interested in the world of films?
This question is a little bit personal, but I will try to answer it. It began in the era of video compact discs (VCD). My school friends and I were so crazy about watching movies, but we were only able to do that on pirated VCDs. My life feels empty if I do not watch movies. My interest in films grew back in my high school days when I was involved in the underground world. From listening to underground music such as black, hardcore, punk and grind, indirectly my heart moved into the world of underground films as well. Nowadays, though, I prefer to watch a romantic movie. Until now, I still love this kind of movie, but I do not quite like the big budget movies from Hollywood. They’re not to my taste.
You’re the editor of a zine called Gelanggang Filem. Now, just a brief introduction before we proceed further, in case there are some who may not know: what is a zine?
Zine or fanzine is a publication of a do-it-yourself (DIY) magazine. Previously, it was usually initated by a group of music fans who were into punk, metal indie and hardcore. Now we have a lot of different zines looking at film, poetry, cuisine and much more. The main idea is to oppose the f*cking publication of magazines that emphasises trends, with so many adverts. As such, zines bring a fresh idea and rebels against the mainstream.
What is the zine culture like in Malaysia? Is there a strong reception to the reading and publishing of zines?
I found out about them in 2006, when I was more into metal zines and hardcore punk. Zine culture in Malaysia has existed for a while, since the late 1980s. If I am not mistaken the first zine is Aedes and Vortex from The East. Zines began expanding in tandem with the development of the local underground scene. The golden age of zines was around the late 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, zine editors would only use handwriting or typewriting to write a zine. Even the method of promotion is through zine flyers disseminated covertly.
Zines started diminishing in the Internet era. Many people who like Myspace and such blogs began to read and write online rather than in zines. Nowadays it is difficult to find one. Only a few people are still interested in making zines, including me.
In your own words, what is Gelanggang Filem all about?
Gelangang Filem has more information about the latest local movies. Besides that, I also include issues related to the local film industry, as well as reviews and much more. Gelanggang Filem ialah wardah buat warga kita!
How did you get the idea of making this zine?
I want to make a zine that is closest to my interests. Furthermore, there are not many movie zines available right now, so I better do it. Thank God, because Gelanggang Filem is now entering its fifth issue.
Were there any other publications that served as an inspiration or reference for your own publication?
For magazines, I used references such as Total Film, Rolling Stone, Empire, Cinemags and Gorezone. There were also other publications such as Utopia, Rhythms of the Third World (ROTTW), Junk, Dragon, Karisma and Konsert, amongst many, many more.
What makes Gelanggang Filem stand out amongst the other film publications in Malaysia?
Perhaps as the first film zine in Malaysia?
What has been the biggest challenge in publishing this zine?
Time and money has been the biggest obstacles. I’m still studying so time is my enemy. Furthermore, I have no job, so I had to use my own spending money.
Let’s take the latest issue. What was the most difficult part about making this issue?
Again, time! This time I was so busy in continuing my studies in UiTM for the semester. I had to push to ensure the completion of the fifth issue. The most difficult thing in this issue is to edit the layout. I am not an expert in editing the layout and cover.
Also using the same issue, can you describe for us the step-by-step publication process?
First, I made a list of questions to several directors, producers and actors such as Cristina Suzanne, Raja Mukhriz, Razaisyam and Fendi Carburetor Dung. After that I will make a number of articles, as well as reviews. To finish everything I just wait for the printing, the cutting and pasting. Cutting and pasting is the important part in making a zine. I will cut a section of the print articles in Gelanggang Filem, and paste it on to blank paper, which, once completed, will be the master copy. When completed, I will make copies of the zine. In this way, everything can be sold.
I’m wondering about the writing team of the zine. How many people are involved in the making of Gelanggang Filem?
Only me, actually. Other writers include Hassan Abdul Muthalib, Dr Norman Yusoff, Fadli Al Akiti, Rizal Fanatik Filem and Amir Muhammad.
You’re also a student currently studying filmmaking at the Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation, UiTM. How do you balance both publishing the zine and your studies?
As it stands, if there is time I will edit and write articles for Gelanggang Filem. At first it is difficult to divide my time, but the best thing I aim for is to release Gelanggang Filem every month.
Given that the faculty is one that is focused on films and filmmaking, I wonder whether it is an advantage to Gelanggang Filem. What kind of support have you received in the making of this zine?
I get some help from my friends and lecturers. Dr Norman, for example, is a lecturer here as well. They always support me, mentally if not always financially, in making more issues. I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to all my supporters.
When you first announced that you’re making this zine, what was the reaction like from your friends and family?
There was a variety of different reactions, but ultimately they will support what I do.
What has the reception to Gelanggang Filem been like thus far?
So far the readers love it and have been giving me encouragement.
What kind of readers do you have?
To be honest, there are too many readers to keep track! However, I noticed that most readers are 20 and above.
Looking further ahead, what is in store for the zine?
For now, only Khizanat in Ipoh, Perak is selling Gelanggang Filem in store. Personally (and professionally) I prefer to sell it myself online or whenever there is an event of some sort. Maybe in the future it will be sold in more bookstores. I’m planning to bring this zine to Indonesia.
Have you considered setting up a website or releasing this in soft copy instead of publishing hardcopy editions?
I have actually created a blog for Gelanggang Filem. Having said that, I rarely update it, to be honest. As you can probably guess from the above, I prefer to read hardcopy magazines rather than spend time reading on the computer. For now, it will only be fully available in zine form.
If someone is interested in purchasing the zine, how do they do it?
If they want to buy Gelanggang Filem, they can either message or Whatsapp me at 0145463869. Alternatively, if you have Facebook or Twitter just check us out at Gelanggang Filem.
You can also go to Khizanat for the latest issues, if you’re based in Ipoh or Perak. Check out their Twitter account @khizanat or drop them a line at 012-562-2353.
Finally, you have to convince us now: why should we buy your zine?
You should buy my zine becauseGelanggang Filem is more concerned with the main issues without any censorship.Gelanggang Filem is also a platform for us to get the latest information or news about the Malaysian film industry. Anyone is eligible to write inGelanggang Filem because it is created for you.
Alright, that’s it for now. Thanks very much for your time!
No, thank you! I apologize for being late to answer this interview, and I hope the readers get plenty of useful information from this interview. Thanks again, and Selamat Hari Raya semua!
If you’re interested in buying Gelanggang Filem, drop Xrantarox a line at 014-5463869. Check out their blog, Facebook and Twitter too, if you fancy it. Alternatively, Perakians can drop by Khizanat and pick up a copy (or five).
Featured image credit: Medical Media Training