Hong Kong’s dream of creating Kowloon Walled City exhibit from hit movie dashed after source reveals sets were destroyed

“The government misunderstood the existing situation and thought they could still preserve the sets when in fact that is impossible now.”

The insider said the government mistook the earlier remarks of actor and investor Louis Koo Tin-lok about “hopes” to use the sets for exhibition, when Koo was in fact referring to new sets that would have to be built from scratch if a second instalment of the film was made.

“The government thought retaining the sets [from the first film] was still possible so it claimed to be in discussions about it, while the movie company didn’t want to upset the government so didn’t publicly reject this possibility,” the source explained.

The film’s sets bring to life some of the once-distinctive features of the Walled City, such as its crowded environment and chaotic network of overhanging electrical wires and pipes. Photo: Entertaining Power Co

The insider added any preservation of the sets was only possible if the movie company actually produced the sequel or prequel and rebuilt the scenery and props again – a prospect that was raised when plans for both were announced at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival.

Nonetheless, whether sets for subsequent film sets could be preserved as public exhibits still “depends on the government’s proposal and offers”, the source said.

“It’s still under negotiation with many variables. It’s hard to say if this can be realised.”

Filmmakers behind the scenes for Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In. Photo: Entertaining Power Co Limited

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said on Saturday that preserving pieces of the sets as they were dismantled had proved difficult, with authorities instead considering using augmented reality to show the exhibits.

Augmented reality, or AR, involves using technology to overlay real-world visuals with digital text and images to enrich viewers’ perceptions of their physical surroundings.

“There have indeed been difficulties as the sets were dismantled with some of the not-so-valuable items being thrown away,” he told a radio programme.

“We are thinking of using AR to present the exhibits … We are still in talks with the production team to see what can be displayed and how we can do it.”

The minister also said finding a location was problematic since it would need to be a large enough display space and not too remote that it deterred visitors.

The movie company has told the Post it will actively consider the feasibility of restoring the sets. Photo: Entertaining Power Co

The movie company told the Post it would actively consider the feasibility of restoring the sets, without specifying which ones.

“We’ve been in discussion with relevant departments. As to how we can restore the sets, we need time for further communication,” it said.

The Kowloon Walled City has been in the spotlight again following the recent success of the movie starring Louis Koo and Raymond Lam Fung, and directed by award-winning Soi Cheang Pou-soi.

Both local and overseas audiences have taken to the film, which made a splash at Cannes and received a standing ovation. Latest box office figures show the film has grossed more than HK$70 million in Hong Kong and Macau since its release in both cities on May 1.

The HK$500-million film takes place in the 1980s inside the overpopulated and ungoverned de jure Chinese enclave that formed part of Hong Kong under colonial rule. It follows a young undocumented immigrant as he stumbles into the neighbourhood, making both friends and enemies while fighting a series of battles to defend his new home from feuding crime lord.
A scene from Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In. Photo: Media Asia Distribution

The film’s sets bring to life some of the once-distinctive features of the Walled City, such as its crowded environment and chaotic network of overhanging electrical wires and pipes. It was once considered the densest settlement in the world and often characterised as a lawless enclave with poor living conditions, rampant prostitution and a thriving black market that traded everything from pirated goods to narcotics.

The warren of 300 interconnected buildings in Kowloon City district was demolished in 1994 and subsequently turned into a park.

The movie’s producer, John Chong Ching, who also produced the successful Infernal Affairs trilogy, told the Post he had called for the government to build a film studio of more than 27,870 square metres for the industry to create their film sets.

“I’ve been calling for the government to build this film studio to facilitate the industry’s development for over 10 years but to no avail,” he said.

“With a film studio funded by the government, the city’s moviemakers won’t need to spend as much money renting spaces to build film sets. We hope the authorities will facilitate this – help the film industry and ease our difficulties.”

Director Soi Cheang, cast members Louis Koo and German Cheung pose at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Reuters

Chong said art director Kenneth Mak Kwok-Keung and his team had recreated parts of the Kowloon Walled City at Shing Fung Film Studio in Sai Kung and an abandoned school in Yuen Long, after looking at “mountains of historical information” about the Walled City.

“It took the team about three months to build the sets, including the narrow alleyways, shops, restaurants, neighbourhood blocks, makeshift cables covering the walls and floors of the dilapidated housing units that replicated the old structures,” he explained.

He added that the set production team had built certain structures on platforms with wheels so they could get around space constraints and be moved to different locations for filming.


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