Hong Kong was a fraught place to be in 1967, with the city in the midst of an eight-month riot between pro-communist campaigners and the British colonial government.
Fast forward to 2014, and the city was once again filled with demonstrations; this time, by pro-democracy protesters.
These two events are woven together in the newly-released Cantonese drama No.1 Chung Ying Street, giving local actors Yau Hawk-sau and Lo Chun-yip the unique opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of young activists from two major chapters in Hong Kong’s history.
Along with their co-star, Fish Liew Ziyu, the actors each played two characters: a pair of teenagers living in the past, and another in the future.
As well as going back in time to 1967, Yau and Lo also travelled ahead to 2019, where their characters are dealing with the aftermath of the 2014 protests and their involvements in them.
It was this future part of the film that hit hardest during filming, the pair told Young Post when we sat down with them recently.
“When we were filming the second part of the story, all three of us felt trapped in a cloud of depression, which came out of nowhere,” said Lo. It was struggle not to let the bleak atmosphere affect his performance.
Yau, meanwhile, kept to himself during the intense filming to get a sense of his character’s emotional state.
“My cast members said I didn’t interact with them much, but it wasn’t intentional,” he explained.
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“When I was playing my character in 2019, I needed to be constantly isolated and trapped in my own head, so I wasn’t in the mood for social interactions.”
Despite the tough subject matter of the film, there were still plenty of memorable moments on set.
“I remember doing a scene where I had to jump into the sea [after] I got hit by a water cannon during a protest. It was freezing cold but I needed to jump into the water several times,” said Yau.
“I don’t know why ... but I always seem to be soaking wet in cold weather [for roles], he added, laughing.
Lo recalled another instant, in which he was afraid he had ruined a take by getting too carried away.
In the scene, Liew’s character is taken away to and beaten by officers, before being bundled inside a police car. Her friends and relatives, including Lo, are supposed to be held back by more police as the car drives off.
“[But] I got really into my character, and thought since no one was stopping me, I should chase after the police car,” he said.
Luckily, that part of the scene only showed the inside of the police car, with the focus on Liew, who kept her cool despite seeing Lo through the car window. And, as Lo added with a smile, “it was a good take”.
Being part of a local production which explores the history and social issues of Hong Kong has made Lo and Yau realise the importance of being critical when analysing information and judging its reliability.
“Compared to when I was a teenager, technology has made it so easy to access information,” said Lo.
But this easy access can be a double-edged sword, he added. Lo, like most of us, has found himself falling into the trap of mistaking content farm articles for real news.
“[Teenagers] should be very careful when choosing their source of information and determining which ones are reliable,” he advised.
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So what’s the best way to improve our news literacy? For Lo, the key is to be able to “stand the boredom”.
“Try not to be scared by articles with a lot of words, or those that focus on an unfamiliar subject,” said Lo. You might not understand what you’re reading right away, he added, “but once you get used to a specific language, you’ll gradually gain more exposure to what’s going on in the world”.
Yau suggested an easy way to become more engaged in social affairs or history was to read the articles shared by your friends on social media, which was the first step he took to develop a news-reading habit.
“Some pieces might only provide you with superficial information about an issue. But if the subject interest you, explore it further.”
Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge