An Instagram page set up by a group of Hong Kong film lovers is attempting to document the city’s rapidly changing landscape by taking people back to where famous films were made.
Founded in April 2020 by four then-film students at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), the Throwback HK Film Story Instagram account has shared around 100 photos with film stills that blend perfectly with the background.
The first post on the site features a scene from an action thriller choice (2005) directed by industry veteran Johnnie To and starring Tony Leung Ka-fai, who hails from the centuries-old Yau Ma Tei Police Station. However, the columns in the film fit almost seamlessly into the actual architecture. The post brings back nostalgic memories of the acclaimed film, some commented.
Another post shows a minibus stop where the award-winning film stops lost in time (2003) was filmed. The site’s administrators managed to recreate the scene where actress Cecilia Cheung was standing between two minibuses while a vehicle happened to be parked on the left when the movie fans visited the site. This post remains one of the most popular photos on Throwback Film Story account, it is also the admins favorite.
King Wong, 24, one of the creators behind this site, which started as a university group project, told HKFP his team would remember memorable scenes from Hong Kong films they’ve seen recently and keep their eyes peeled for the locations to find where the sequences were set.
But the Throwback Film Story team members aren’t always lucky. Some filming locations were no longer accessible, others remain a mystery. They have also previously misidentified locations, such as when they visited the Admiralty’s Pacific Place to find the exact spot where Cantopop icon Leslie Cheung hugged actress Cherie Chung against a backdrop of skyscrapers Once a thief (1991).
At first they were sure they had found the location, but the photo and the buildings didn’t match. It was only when they returned to the same location a month later that they finally found the podium on which the film was shot.
“A lot of places have been renovated in Hong Kong. It made it quite difficult for us to recreate the scenes,” Wong said.
As locations became more obscure, the team couldn’t rely solely on Google Maps and their own memories to locate them, Wong said. They reached out to Facebook groups of Hong Kong film enthusiasts, who often shared information about where a local film was being filmed. Or they would ask the older generation, as they might be able to identify the places that were shown in decades-old films that don’t quite look the same today.
The site’s content could serve as a record of disappearing buildings and architecture in Hong Kong, another administrator, Coco Chu, told HKFP.
“Hong Kong is changing so fast. Many [structures] may be demolished and we want to do everything we can to preserve these locations,” said the 24-year-old.
The page honoring Hong Kong films currently has more than 18,000 followers on Instagram. Such popularity was unforeseeable by Wong, Chu and their partners Tom Li and Guy Li, who created the account for their social media course at HKBU.
The team thanked the actors Beyond the Dream (2019), specifically lead actress Cecilia Choi, for helping popularize the site by re-releasing their recreation of a scene from the film, directed by Kiwi Chow. The page tagged the actors in hopes of introducing up-and-coming actors to Hong Kong audiences, but to the team’s surprise, many people also paid tribute to their work.
“We were very shocked that our follower numbers have skyrocketed. More and more people paid attention and we started doing media interviews,” Wong said.
The team believes the rise of localism in recent years – with more and more Hong Kongers paying attention to local culture – is also why their following continues to grow. Old or new, Hong Kong films are unique, Wong added.
“Local films are ours because they are produced in our language. They represent a sense of identity and an opportunity to learn about the society one lives in,” Wong said.
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