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A star-studded tour of cinematic scenes in Yau Tsim Mong
Written by Time Out Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s appeal to filmmakers and videographers is unquestionable. Neon-lit streets, incredible skyline, landmarks, and the city’s unique clash of old and new all provide excellent visuals on-screen. The Yau Tsim Mong District, in particular, has served as inspiration, and set the scene, for numerous genres of films and music videos around the world, from K-pop to Hollywood blockbusters. Have your cameras at the ready, folks, as this guide will steer you through some of the coolest filming locations in this ever-bustling district.
Renowned film critic Clarence Tsui shines a spotlight on Yau Tsim Mong
“What makes Hong Kong so unique is the dynamism. From the early hours in the morning to ungodly hours of the night, there’s always something happening in the city,” says Clarence Tsui. For Tsui, a renowned film critic and the director of arthouse cinema Broadway Cinematheque, the appeal of Hong Kong to filmmakers and videographers locally and around the world is apparent.
“The attraction lies in the diverse landscape and cultural makeup of the city,” says Tsui. “Hong Kong is basically a metropolis where everything and anything comes together from different historical epochs and cultural backgrounds.” The neighbourhood of Yau Tsim Mong, in particular, reflects this. The location is a stark contrast of old and new, where people from various backgrounds converge, bringing cultural diversity to the community. “Yau Tsim Mong has elements of local culture embodied by wet markets, tenement blocks, and cha chaan tengs [local cafes], which make obvious landmarks to our friends from overseas,” Tsui explains. “But it’s also how these things brush shoulders with something very different.” From wet markets that sit next to high-rises and decades-old tenement buildings overshadowed by large shopping malls, these characteristics are what make Yau Tsim Mong one of the most unique filming locations in the city.
Tsui goes on to share one of his favourite films, Little Cheung (1999) by Fruit Chan, which follows the story of a young boy who lives on Temple Street. "The movie shows a very riveting and quipping take on everyday life in one of the most dynamic neighbourhoods in the city," he shares. Not only did the film capture what life was like back then in Yau Tsim Mong, and, in a way, it still is today, but it also reveals to the audience the very essence of the neighbourhood.
For a better understanding of the neighbourhood and its significance in the cinematic world, Tsui recommends visiting Broadway Cinematheque not only for the interesting architecture but also for the cinema and bookshop which showcases some of the best and most creative works in the industry. Alternatively, Tsui also suggests visiting the Yau Ma Tei Market on Kansu Street. “The space can be adapted for all sorts of stories,” explains Tsui. “The building itself is a symbol of what Yau Ma Tei is about — ordinary people trying to lead their sometimes mundane, but always dynamic lives. This is a spot awaiting discovery by filmmakers and cinematographers, local and abroad.
Hong Kong’s famous skyline has served as a backdrop for many Hollywood blockbusters, including the 2017 live-action remake of the iconic anime film Ghost in the Shell. Filmed in Hong Kong starring Scarlett Johansson as a cyborg agent, the movie turns Hong Kong into a fictional, futuristic metropolis that almost makes the city unrecognisable. Various landmarks along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade — though laden with CGI — can be spotted in the movie, with the Hong Kong Cultural Centre standing out as the inspiration behind the fictional headquarters of the Department of Defense Section 9.
Stop 2: Peninsula Hotel
James Bond movie buffs would know that The Peninsula Hong Kong was featured in the 1974 classic, The Man with the Golden Gun. The hotel's driveway and entrance made a brief appearance in the film when Bond attempts to track down Bond girl Andrea Anders, who was picked up at the docks by a green Rolls-Royce. Bond immediately asks his assistant Mary Goodnight to track down the car, to which Goodnight laughed and replied “all green Rolls-Royces belong to The Peninsula hotel” as they arrive at the hotel’s driveway. To this day, the green Rolls-Royce pickup service is still available at the hotel. So, if you're lucky, you might get to catch one at the driveway on your next visit.
Stop 3: Temple Street Archway
Featuring a star-studded cast with Andy Lau and Sean Lau as leads, Shock Wave 2 is perhaps one of the biggest Hong Kong films to hit our silver screens as of late. The film took place in numerous locations around Hong Kong, one of which was on Temple Street in a scene where EODB (Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau) officer Poon Shing Fung (Andy Lau) and his comrade Tung Cheuk Man (Sean Lau) were on a mission to rescue hostages from a bomb-filled apartment. The filming of this particular scene caused a commotion in the neighbourhood as the street had to be closed off and crowds gathered to catch the two stars in action.
Temple Street has also played a role in Mondo Grosso's 'Labyrinth' music video, a collaboration between Japanese musician and producer Shinichi Osawa, and Japanese singer and actress Hikari Mitsushima. The result of this was a mesmerising video — edited to look like a single-shot take — that followed Mitsushima as she effortlessly dances her way through Temple Street Night Market and other locations of Hong Kong at night. The video’s dreamy, retro aesthetics, enhanced by the rain-slicked streets, perfectly captured the city’s complex and maze-like cityscape.
Stop 5: Broadway Cinematheque
Broadway Cinematheque is a commercial arthouse cinema that offers one of the most stimulating cinematic experiences. Bringing a wide spectrum of internationally acclaimed films from around the world — including independent productions and art films — this cultural landmark in Yau Ma Tei also houses a special bookstore and cafe named Kubrick, which offers a diverse selection of books by literary authors from across the world, poetry books, indie magazines, as well as books on art and cinema.
Stop 6: Mong Kok Road Footbridge
Another perfect example that Hong Kong offers more than skyscrapers and famous landmarks, MAMAMOO takes viewers through the evening streets of Hong Kong with their music video for ‘Wind Flower’. Filmed in various locations around the city, the video makes its Hong Kong stamp from the get-go with a slow-motion shot of the girl group standing in a row, strutting down Fa Yuen Street in front of the Mong Kok Footbridge. Views of Mong Kok from the footbridge can also be seen in scenes where group member Moonbyul stands in front of a picture-perfect spot that overlooks the minibus stations along Tung Choi Street. This exact location is also a go-to spot for photography enthusiasts around the city.
Stop 7: Goldfish Market
South Korean boy band GOT7 takes us around some of Hong Kong’s most Instagrammable spots in their music video for ‘You Are’. The beautiful cinematography, coupled with soft, uplifting beats, highlighted different sides of Hong Kong, from its striking architecture to local scenes. One of the video’s most alluring scenes captured Hong Kong’s very own musician and dancer Jackson Wang in front of a neon-lit goldfish store. The colourful glow of lights, enhanced by its dark surroundings, created a visually stunning and memorable scene for all viewers. It’s no wonder why this particular spot is a favourite with photographers.
Stop 8: Lui Seng Chun
A stunning example of pre-war Hong Kong architecture, Lui Seng Chun is one of the most famous landmarks in Hong Kong, now widely recognised thanks to the Marvel movie Doctor Strange. Built in 1931, this four-storey Declared Monument was once a typical tong lau (traditional tenement), where shops took up the ground floor space and residents lived above, before the whole structure was revitalised in 2012 and became home to a Chinese medicine healthcare centre for Hong Kong Baptist University. Although scenes featuring the building were not filmed in Hong Kong, the filmmakers recreated a large-scale model of a regular Hong Kong street, of which a Lui Seng Chun-inspired structure stands prominently in the background.
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