An Instagram page founded by a group of Hong Kong film lovers is striving to document the city’s rapidly changing landscape by taking people back to where iconic movies were shot.
Founded by four then-film students at the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) in April 2020, the Instagram account Throwback HK Film Story has shared around 100 photos featuring film stills that perfectly blend with the background.
The page’s first post shows a scene from action thriller Election (2005) directed by industry veteran Johnnie To, with lead character played by Tony Leung Ka-fai walking out of the century-old Yau Ma Tei Police Station. The pillars in the film still match the actual architecture almost seamlessly. The post brings back nostalgic memories of the acclaimed film, some comments read.
Another post shows a minibus stop where award-winning movie Lost In Time (2003) was filmed. The page administrators manged to recreate the scene where actress Cecilia Cheung was standing between two minibuses, with a vehicle coincidentally parked on the left when the film buffs visited the site. This post remains as one of the most liked photos on Throwback Film Story’s account, it is also the administrators’ favourite.
King Wong, 24, one of the creators behind this page that started off as a university group project, told HKFP that his team would recall memorable scenes from Hong Kong films they saw recently and keep their eyes peeled to spot the locations where the sequences were set.
But the Throwback Film Story team members are not always in luck. Some filming locations were no longer accessible, while others remain a mystery. They have also misidentified sites before, such as when they visited Admiralty’s Pacific Place to find the exact spot where Cantopop icon Leslie Cheung hugged actress Cherie Chung against a background of skyscrapers in Once A Thief (1991).
At first, they were certain they found the filming location, but the photo and the buildings did not align. It was not until they returned to the same location a month later that they finally found the podium where the film was shot.
“Hong Kong began to see a lot of places being renovated. It made it quite difficult for us to recreate the scenes,” Wong said.
When the locations were more obscure, the team could not rely solely on Google Maps and their own memory to pinpoint them, Wong said. They would turn to Facebook groups run by Hong Kong film enthusiasts who often shared information about where a local film was shot. Or they would ask the older generation, as they may be able to identify the sites shown in decades-old films that do not look quite the same in the present day.
The page’s content may serve as a record of disappearing buildings and architectures in Hong Kong, another administrator Coco Chu told HKFP.
“Hong Kong is changing so rapidly. A lot of [structures] may be torn down and we want to do what we can to preserve those filming locations,” the 24-year-old said.
The page honouring Hong Kong movies currently has more than 18,000 followers on Instagram. Such popularity was unforeseen 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 of Beyond the Dream (2019), especially lead actress Cecilia Choi, for helping to put the page on the map by reposting their recreation of a scene from the movie directed by Kiwi Chow. The page tagged the actors in the hope of introducing up-and-coming actors to Hong Kong audiences but, to the team’s surprise, many people also gave recognition to their work.
“We were very shocked our follower numbers jumped. More and more people paid attention and we started giving media interviews,” Wong said.
The team believes the rise of localism in recent years – with more Hongkongers paying attention to local culture – is also why their following keeps growing. Whether old or new, Hong Kong films are unique, Wong added.
“Local films belong to us because they are produced in our language. They represent a sense of identity and a way of learning about the society you live in,” Wong said.