Asian Cinema Glamour at the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars

Alfred Hitchcock. Director. The Carpenters. Musicians. Audrey Hepburn.  Actress. The Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California is able to immortalize their sheen in the entertainment industry by providing each of them a star along Hollywood Boulevard.

jet li avenue of stars

But the stars are not concentrated only in America. Asia also has her very own definition of “cinema.” She has Wong Kar Wai, Gong Li and Bruce Lee, whose shimmer also extends beyond death. Located near Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, along Victoria Bay, an equally grand honorarium is established to immortalize these passionate movers of Hong Kong cinema.

 

THE IN-BETWEEN CINEMA

According to Prof. Poshek Fu of the University of Illinois, Hong Kong has become “a principal ideological battleground between the Free World and the Communist Bloc in Asia.” Being geographically located at the middle of mainland China and Taiwan, Hong Kong’s beliefs has always been politically divided, plus the fact that they have been a British colony for more than a hundred years.

And this philosophical identity crisis has greatly influenced their cinema. On Prof. Fu’s article at the American Historical Association website, he has said that Cantonese filmmakers have showed the everyday life in Hong Kong during the time, but have “generally refrained” from giving any sensitive opinions about China nor about the foreign government.

viewfinder avenue of stars

The viewfinder.

By the end of World War II, Hong Kong has started to take sides. Films featuring martial arts have become the trend and is said to be the outlet of the “anger and discontent” of the society towards Communism.

On his last note, Prof. Fu has said, “I came to recognize that movies, even those with apparent entertainment values, are never ideologically innocent. They are intricately and often ambiguously intertwined with history and politics.” Because of this, Hong Kong industry practitioners really deserve to be commemorated in this 440-meter walk along the bay.

THE STARS

The Hong Kong Film Awards Association Limited recognizes excellent performances in the industry by etching their names on shimmering stars.

bruce lee

The “Clark Kent who didn’t need to change outfit…”

One of the more prominent names along the avenue is that of Bruce Lee’s. His contributions to both the worlds of film and martial arts are not only honored with a star along Hollywood Walk of Fame but also with a star and a bronze statue along the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong. He has not just been a star but also a shape-shifter of the Asian image as it struggles against the racial discriminations in the United States. In an article published by Time, writer Joel Steinn said, “In an America where the Chinese were still stereotyped as meek house servants and railroad workers, Bruce Lee was… a Clark Kent who didn’t need to change outfits.”

wong kar wai avenue of stars

“I hate love stories.”

On the other hand, being the first Asian to win a Best Director award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has automatically granted Wong Kar Wai a spot along the bay. Known for the romance of Happy Together, Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, Wong has said in an interview by Time that, ironically, he hated love stories. “They sell prettiness. I don’t do that. There’s more to life than love,” uttered the filmmaker who has given love a different definition in his films.

Another name that has made waves across the globe is Gong Li’s. In an interview by The New York Times, she said, “An actor should not memorize every line but should allow new things to happen. I need a collaboration with the director and other actors, something at the location that allows something else to emerge.” And true enough, working with different directors has earned her numerous prestigious awards including Best Actress at the 49th Venice International Film Festival.

THE AVENUE

The star-studded walk along Victoria Bay has not just acted as a tribute but has also boosted tourism in Hong Kong.

hong kong film awards diva

Hong Kong Film Awards Diva.

At the entrance, guests are welcomed by a 4.5-meter giant replica of the Hong Kong Film Awards diva. There is also a bronze statue of McDull, Hong Kong’s most sought-after animated pig. There are also sculptures portraying key people in a film set like a director, a sound man, and a cinematographer. The newest attraction is a monument of Cantopop singer and actress, Anita Mui, who also owns a star along the bay.

At the Symphony of Lights

The Symphony of Lights.

The area also offers a magnificent view of the Victoria Harbour during the day. After sunset, establishments along the bay turn their lights on and dance to the tune of upbeat rhythms at the 13-minute show called the Symphony of Lights.

camera

Asia has its own talents. Photo by Mai Calapardo.

Hollywood may have been the biggest film outfit but it cannot deny the fact that it doesn’t own all the talent in the world. At the other side of the globe, there exist fine artists pushing for the richest culture and ideologies that Asian cinema can offer.

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Traveling through Films

I stand there, eye to eye, with the Great Sphinx of Giza as my feet imbibe the warmth of the sand. Afterwards, I put on my backpack to trek and get lost at the Grand Canyon. My unreliable sense of direction manages to find the way out to one of the stalls in Akihabara district in Tokyo, Japan.

mt damas tarlac lost rocks river hopping

I also got lost at Mt. Damas in Tarlac, Philippines. Photo by Karah Decapia.

How am I able to do all of these in just one sweep? I watch a movie, or a TV drama.

Production companies are like travel agencies, offering package tours to consumers, in the form of movies. A film is like a comprehensive tour, complete with transportation, accommodation, food, culture, music, art and most specially, story and experience.

Movies can also be considered the best tour bargains. Only a small portion of one’s salary is needed, plus it will not require full-blown leaves from work. More or less two hours is enough, unless one is catching films from Filipino director Lav Diaz, whose movies range from more than an hour to almost 9 hours of running time.

So sit back, relax and join me in this trip.

cine adarna university of the philippines

The old seats at the University of the Philippines Cine Adarna.

Business class or economy?

Seats and services depend on what movie we are seeing. Hollywood movies will always offer the finest cruise cabins of Titanic. The science fiction genre may even give us an exclusive cockpit tour to outer space, like in Gravity. Aladdin‘s magic carpet ride is also always available for those who seek Alice in Wonderland.

Upon arrival at our destination, there is always a choice between the local bus or a local taxi from our favorite crime film, and make a Pulp Fiction kind of confession. Who will not want a rickshaw ride with Bruce Lee from the Fist of Fury. Or we can try the Philippine kalesa from the historical film Jose Rizal, for a more nostalgic effect.

For accommodation, an independent film, may not be able to book us a first class hotel. But it can definitely remind us that there probably is “no place like home” just like the Cinemalaya 2005 Best Production Design winner, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros. And we can always lie down with Mother Earth, or even over a frozen body of water, like that star-watching scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

But for budget travelers like me, we can always experience luxury treatment, every once in a while, through movies. Biopics can always grant us a chance to sit on the royal throne from The King’s Speech. Political films may give us exclusive passes to the official Presidential residence like in White House Down. A movie adaptation, on the other hand, can guide us through the Hogwarts castle of Harry Potter.

After settling down in our choice of accommodation, it is now time to mingle with our destination.
Complimentary Gourmet Meals

Stomachs growling from the long journey? The national cinema can offer us the best food tripping experience, from gourmet cuisines to budget meals.

For the first course, we can have a Korean soup from Le Grand Chef. This appetizer also comes with a free historical discourse between Korea and Japan. Then we can try some Jiro Ono sushi to stimulate our palates and learn the culinary discipline from the full-length documentary about the first sushi chef to receive three Michelin stars.

For the main course, we can have satisfying Filipino dishes from the upcoming Cinemalaya 2016 entry Kusina by Cenon Obispo Palomares and David Corpuz. This film will feature how we Filipinos make our cooking special by using a secret ingredient called pagmamahal (love). For dessert, we can enjoy the enchanted sweets from a small French village in Chocolat.

After that, we can enjoy our to-go coffee, just like Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s while we search for some Hong Kong street food from Chungking Express. Then there is always the popular Filipino fertilized duck egg called balut which we can enjoy through Balut Country, an official entry to Sinag Maynila Film Festival 2015.

Exclusive Gig passes

Experiencing the culture of each destination is a must for every traveler. And every film is also somewhat a virtual recital of some of the famous and award-winning artists in the world.

The Star Wars saga will never be complete without the signature John Williams symphony. Hayao Miyazaki films will not feel as magical if not for the accompanying music of Joe Hisaishi. Polish music can also be appreciated through the movie The Pianist.

Films also feature actual artist performances, like that Madonna act on the 1985 film Vision Quest. Ang Nawawala (What Isn’t There), an official entry to the 2012 Cinemalaya Film Festival, is an on-screen gig of Philippine indie rock musicians like Pedicab, The Strangeness, Flying Ipis, Ang Bandang Shirley and Ebe Dancel.

We can also tag along a whole European tour of one of Japan’s most promising bands today, ONE OK ROCK, through their full-length documentary, Fool Cool Rock.

There are also art gigs from Frida, showcasing Mexican art to the world. Still Life, on the other hand, another entry to Cinemalaya 2007, is a showcase of Filipino talent.

Free Counselling

When we travel, specially when we are alone, we discover a lot of new things about ourselves, as much as about our destinations. Traveling acts as our own personal psychologists, healing us every time we go out together.

Films also offer free life counseling, especially if we can relate to the stories of the protagonists. Ordinary People, the 1981 Academy Best Picture, features one of the most healing conversations of all time.

The drama series Hannibal also gives us an interesting relationship between therapist and patient.


Indeed, films have that ability to take us to our next destination, be it magical or realistic.

So while saving up for my next trip, let me enjoy some more films first, and use my imagination to go anywhere I want.

hong kong avenue of stars director

“So, Direk, what’s our next film?” At the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong. Photo by Mai Calapardo.

Hong Kong and the Lost Tripod

Still can’t get enough of Hong Kong? Here is one of my very first blog posts, detailing how my friend’s tripod got lost in our first trip abroad.

hong kong disneyland

The Magical Disneyland castle.

The Viewfinder

It was the time when one of the major airport terminals in the Philippines was disturbed by a royal rumble between a celebrity couple and a veteran media man.  According to reports, it all started with the unannounced offloading of the couple’s luggage from their overloaded plane.  Still according to  reports, there were also no CCTV cameras installed in the baggage conveyor area of the airport, making it impossible to check on the actual happenings.

Unfortunately, our flight to Hong Kong was booked in the same airline.  But fortunately, we weren’t in the same airport.

It was the wee hours of May 26 when Mai, Jombits, Ami, Sheig and I, arrived at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Angeles City, Pampanga.

diosdado macapagal international airport clark angeles pampanga

Except for Sheig, this was our first trip abroad and we initially did not plan to check-in any baggage as we are in backpack mode, and also to…

View original post 1,901 more words

Hong Kong and the Lost Tripod

It was the time when one of the major airport terminals in the Philippines was disturbed by a royal rumble between a celebrity couple and a veteran media man.  According to reports, it all started with the unannounced offloading of the couple’s luggage from their overloaded plane.  Still according to  reports, there were also no CCTV cameras installed in the baggage conveyor area of the airport, making it impossible to check on the actual happenings.

Unfortunately, our flight to Hong Kong was booked in the same airline.  But fortunately, we weren’t in the same airport.

It was the wee hours of May 26 when Mai, Jombits, Ami, Sheig and I, arrived at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Angeles City, Pampanga.

diosdado macapagal international airport clark angeles pampanga

Except for Sheig, this was our first trip abroad and we initially did not plan to check-in any baggage as we are in backpack mode, and also to avoid any offloading.  But the attendants said that Mai’s tripod was not allowed to be hand-carried, and also all of our umbrellas.  And so we paid an awesome amount of fees, so awesome that we felt robbed.

airplane window  view clouds

We took our flight and after almost two hours of getting intimate with sinturong pangkaligtasan, we arrived in Hong Kong International Airport.

hong kong international airport signange

Inside the plane, we could still hear the flight attendants bidding us good bye, in Filipino.  But the moment we stepped out of the plane, upon seeing a different writing in the signage, upon hearing an announcement in a language we did not understand, upon sighting a CCTV camera on every corner, and upon being surrounded by a first world environment, oh yes, we definitely were not in the Philippines anymore.

hong kong bus

After a one-and-a-half-hour ride on a “two-storey bus”, we arrived in Mong Kok.

hong kong mong kok streets window view

Seemed familiar? No, we’re not in Manila yet.  We’re still in Hong Kong.  Amongst the busy streets, we found Dragon Hostel, where we made our reservation, and managed to check-in by conversing with the owner in what they call the universal language, English.

Then a woman accompanied us to a seemingly-normal elevator.   We were asking her questions about our room, in English, but she was not answering.  Then, the elevator doors opened and we saw the number thirteen on the wall.  Oh gosh, we were on the thirteenth floor.  Sheig showed the woman the number indicated in our room key: 107.  She said something in Chinese, that we did not understand, as she led us out.  The seemingly-normal ambience suddenly turned to an Asian horror experience as we walked the corridors of thirteenth floor.  Why did they have a thirteenth floor here? Oh yeah, of course, we were not in the Philippines.  Luckily, we reached Unit 1303, Room 107, without anything unsual happening.

As we passed by the lobby on our way out, we learned that the woman who accompanied us understands only a little English.

Our next stop was the MTR Station, the equivalent of our very own Metro Rail Transit (MRT).  Aside from the first-world look of the surroundings, discipline was all around. There were no pushing, no long lines; we could even wander around with DSLRs hanging around our necks without fear of snatchers or hold-uppers just like in Quiapo or Divisoria.

Plus, there were a lot of cute guys.  And as we were all giggling about an anime-looking guy near the train doors, a woman sitting next to me seemed to be silently laughing with us.  “Tunaw na mga lalaki sa kakatitig n’yo (All the boys are melting before your eyes),” she says as she started a conversation with us.  As far as I can remember, she’s from Leyte and was a domestic helper in Hong Kong.  It was so refreshing to meet someone who speaks the same language as we do.  And as we reached our destination, she said that Hong Kong was such a beautiful place that we’ll surely enjoy.

hong kong avenue of stars wong kar wai

The rest of Day 1 was spent in the Avenue of Stars, where we had a photo on Wong Kar Wai’s star and witnessed the Symphony of Lights.

symphony of lights avenue of stars hong kong

We started Day 2 with the ever-relaxing aura of Chi Lin Nunnery.

chi lin nunnery diamond hill hong kong

We also visited the Hong Kong Film archive, and wished that the Philippine government would also give this much importance to our classic films.

hong kong film archive

We rode the train to our next destination and laughed loudly as we went boy-watching again.  And as we were walking our way out of the station, we heard a group of women laughing louder than us.  As we turned to look for them, we heard a familiar language.  And to our surprise, we saw a whole stretch of Filipinos, seemingly having a picnic on the park near the Central Station.

central station MTR hong kong

Then we walked our way to experience the view from Victoria Peak.

victoria peak hong kong

On Day 3, as we were buying tickets for Disneyland at the hostel office, Sheig was surprised when a group of three women entered the office.  Sheig, conversed with them in Bicolano, and they smiled to us as we exited the office.

hong kong disneyland

While falling in line at the gates of Disneyland, Mai approached me and handed me a map of the theme park. Suddenly, a man and a little girl approached me as I browse the map “Saan n’yo po nakuha ‘yan (Where did you get that)?”  I readily smiled and asked Mai where she got it. Then we pointed to a staff member distributing the maps nearby.  He smiled and said “Salamat po (Thank you).”

And at long last, we were there, in the place where dreams come true.  Only hypocrites would say that they never dreamt, at least once in their childhood, of meeting Mickey Mouse in person, or in my case, Woody.

toy story hong kong disneyland woody jesse

Day 4 was spent with the Big Buddha of Lantau Island.

big buddha lantau island hong kong

To take this photo, we installed Mai’s tripod and set Carmen (what Mai calls her Canon 5D camera) into timer mode.  Unfortunately, we were positioned near the stairs so everybody who wanted to cross waited for Carmen to flash before they can pass.  And because we were echoserang frogs, we were not contented with the first shot so we took another one.

And as Carmen was counting to ten seconds, a white woman was about to cross and she was made to stop when Carmen flashed.  We ran, laughing, from where we were to see if the picture was good.  And as we were uninstalling the tripod and the camera, the woman mocked how we laughed and said, “No culture”, as she passed by.  Upon hearing this, Jombits readily shouted, “Guys, hurry up! Let’s go over there, to the monastery!” He told us he meant to do it loudly so the white woman would know that we could speak English, and that we could understand what she said and to prove that we have culture.

On Day 5, we boarded a ferry boat to Macau and bid Hong Kong goodbye.  We deposited our luggage at the pier lockers so we could roam around freely.

We rode a bus from the pier to go to the Ruins of St. Paul.  As we were walking and trolling around, we can see and hear a lot of Filipinos. We even asked a Pinoy security guard where to find the best food in Macau.

Our last stop was at the Senador Square…

senador square macau

And this was the last photo taken using Mai’s tripod.  It was already ten in the evening, and our flight was at four the following morning so we already rode the bus back to the pier to gather our things.  I volunteered to help Mai and carried the tripod.

In the pier lockers, we used the weighing scale to see if our pasalubongs and other additional stuff fitted the allotted baggage weight.  We aimed to weigh the tripod first, since surely it won’t be allowed to be hand-carried again.  Tripod.  Uh-oh.  I was the last person holding it in the bus.  Oh my goodness! I left the tripod in the bus!

We readily ran to check if Bus # A10, was still outside.  But as expected, it already went away.  We seek help from the Pier Information Desk.  The woman at the desk, conversing with us in English, told us that the ticket booth at the bus stop may be helpful.  We went there where we saw a man and a woman, but we cannot seem to understand one another.  By looking at the big Information Board, we learned that Bus #A10’s route starts from the pier and back so there’s a possibility that the same bus we rode minutes ago would still pass by.  It was 10:30 in the evening, and we decided to take the risk.

So how many A10 buses were there?  We were uncertain.  Soon enough, one of them came.  We tried talking to the driver but again, we could not understand Chinese and he could not understand English.  So Mai and I decided to compose our message, in English, and let the woman at the Information Booth write down the Chinese translation on a piece of paper.  Then we showed this to each and every A10 bus driver that came afterwards.  An hour already passed but the tripod was still nowhere to be found.

We decided to ride a taxi to the nearest police station, using the Chinese translation the woman at the desk gave us.  Luckily, the officer that we met can speak English but still the conversation was not easy.  We called the bus terminal office, located at A-Ma Temple but no one’s answering.  It was twelve midnight.  The officer said that there could hardly be any person at the office at that hour.  We explained that we need to find it before our flight back to the Philippines at 4:00AM.  The officer asked for our Philippine address and even offered to ship the tripod once they find it the following morning.  We really appreciated his kindness, but we thought that if they or we would wait until the following morning, it would be harder to track the tripod.  So we thanked the officer and went back.

Upon walking to the bus stop, Mai said that maybe we still have time to go to A-Ma Temple.  We walked passed the bus stop and started looking for a Filipino.  It was already late so there were only a few people on the streets.  After some time, we chance upon a Pinay-looking woman. “Ate, pwede po ba magtanong (Excuse me, we would just want to ask a question)?”, Mai readily asked without even confirming if she’s a Filipina.  Fortunately, the woman said, “Ay, ano po ‘yun (Yes, what is it)?”  We explained the scenario and she took us to the hotel where she was working and introduced us to another Filipino, a Kuya who was assigned at the desk.  He helped us call the A-Ma temple terminal again but still no one answered.  We asked where A-Ma Temple was and Kuya said it was at the far end of Macau.  He wrote something down, and made a Chinese co-worker write the translation on the paper.  Kuya said we just need to show that to the taxi driver to be able to reach A-Ma Temple.  But he said that at this hour, the probability of finding someone there was very low.  We thanked Kuya and told him we really appreciated his help.

As we were walking outside the hotel, I apologized to Mai and gave her a very tight hug.  I told her that I would just buy her a new one. It was already 12:30am and the airport was quite far from where we were.  We rode the bus back to the pier to fetch Jombits and Sheig and went straight to the airport.

By the way, Mai was fond of naming all her gadgets, and because she just bought her tripod during this Hong Kong trip, it has no name yet.  So after all that happened in Macau, we decided to name the tripod after that woman at the airport rumble.  And another thing, everytime we feel angry during this trip and wanted to make a fight, we just use the woman’s name to call what we were about to do and we are sent laughing our hearts instead.

avenue of stars hong kong friends