Treasure trove of the past

Treasure trove of the past

A team of filmmakers recorded a vanishing side of old Hong Kong - and learned some valuable life lessons


(From left) Vienna Wong, Vicki Wong and Ken Chan
(From left) Vienna Wong, Vicki Wong and Ken Chan
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP
While many people think that old things have little value and should be forgotten, a group of secondary students at Sha Tin Methodist College believe otherwise.

Ken Chan Wai-kin, Vicki Wong Wai-kiu and her older sister, Vienna Wong Wai-yan, and Erica Cheng Chun-ho made a five-minute documentary on a sunset industry in Hong Kong, featuring a traditional style cafe in Sheung Wan.

The students are members of the school's Campus TV team, who have learned about video film-making after school since Form One.

"There's always an old cafe in Hong Kong movies," Ken, 19, says. "To some people, it's old-fashioned, but to us it's new and interesting."

Their film, Treasure of Lost Feelings, has won several awards, including the Best Documentary and Best Picture at last year's National Geographic "Live Curious" Documentary Competition, and another Best Documentary prize at this year's Digital Video competition run by the Hong Kong Baptist University and the government youth portal,

The students focused on filming something local, which represented Hong Kong. An internet search uncovered Hoi An Cafe, a traditional-style restaurant that opened in 1952.

Decorated with high-ceiling fans, original, wooden-booth seating with high-backed benches, and stools set around glass-topped round tables, it offers many old-style food items you rarely find in modern Hong Kong, such as home-baked cakes and buns, instant noodles with beef satay, and cooked ham and eggs.

" The cafe was once owned by the father of Annie Au Yeung, who is now the owner," says Vicki, 17. "She told us her father named it Hoi An, literally meaning "sea safety", since the neighbourhood was an area recruiting sailors and he wanted them all to come home safely.

Vicki learned that when Annie's father died, the cafe was taken over by "Uncle Wong", an existing member of staff. Annie took over recently when Wong retired.

"Annie has her struggles," Vienna, 18, says. "She went from working as a bank manager, to someone serving in the cafe and cleaning the toilets.

"Yet she's accepted the challenge because she was born in the neighbourhood and wants to pass on the cafe's great old tradition, just like her father and Wong did."

Ken says: "Even her son asked why she would make such a change. She told him she'd made up her mind and was committed - forever. I was moved by her devotion."

During 10 hours of filming, the students listened to many touching, "real-life" human stories that lifted their spirits. "Unlike many fast-food, chain restaurants, which feel soulless and cold - both in the service and chilly, air-conditioned interior - their cafe is different; strangers interact with one another," Vicki says.

Vienna says: "We saw customers, who don't know each other at all, sit down at the same table and begin to chat, quite naturally."

Vikki adds: "Some people say Hongkongers are becoming distant - that they don't feel anything for each other. But it's great to see people in this cafe aren't like that."

The students honed their filming and editing skills - and interviewing techniques - by seeing things from the perspective of those being questioned. "I learned the value of listening in interviews," Ken says. "Rather than throw out questions, you get more if you listen."

The team won a trip to Xiqiao Mountain Film Studio at Foshan City, in Guangdong, this summer.

Yet their greatest reward has been the motivation to document further Hong Kong stories on film.

In April, Ken and Vicki entered another NatGeo competition, with the theme "This is who we are".

"I want to discover more of the true spirit of Hong Kong people - a spirit that says: we never give up," Ken says.

To watch Treasure of Lost Feelings, go to this link.



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