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Why is it so difficult to film in the Kowloon Walled City?

(Image du film "Days Of Being Wild" dont la scène a été filmée dans la Citadelle de Kowloon)

The Kowloon Walled City has inspired many cinematic works over the decades, including Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Swallowtail Butterfly, and the recently famous action film City of Darkness, which will be in cinemas in France this September.

(Image from City Of Darkness by Soi CHEANG ).

For years, the Kowloon Walled City was notoriously seen as a popular neighborhood shrouded in myths and mysteries. It was also viewed as an anarchic yet criminal zone before the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. However, this perspective is not entirely accurate: first, the gangs were unable (or perhaps unwilling) to control all areas of the Walled City due to the population growth, leading the residents to self-organize a neighborhood association for their commerce, health, and other daily necessities. Over time, the association and the gangs developed mutual respect and agreements for order and discipline within the Walled City. The British police at that time could enter the Walled City and conduct investigations, but it was never their priority because there were implicit consensual rules between the police, the association, and the gangs.

In the film Long Arm of the Law, screened in “Portrait of Hong Kong” at the Forum des Images, the shootout scenes at the end of the film between the police and the gangs are overly dramatic, as there were never such large-scale battles in the Walled City. However, what is interesting is that all these scenes filmed by Johnny Mak are actual scenes from the Walled City. These scenes are rare and have become valuable sources for us to revisit the landscape of the Walled City.

In fact, to film in the Walled City, the crew needed not only the government's filming authorization but also the consent of the association, the residents in the filming areas, and the gangs. It was an extremely difficult task that required a lot of communication and community networking. Besides Johnny Mak, Wong Kar Wai was the other Hong Kong director who managed to film in the Walled City; but after successfully filming Days of Being Wild, Wong Kar Wai lost his community connection and was unable to gain access to the Walled City for more extensive filming for In the Mood For Love.

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