by Dennis Eng
It was surely fate that the sight of Maurice Chan playing his flute along the elevated walkway by the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai prompted Stuart Rankin to make a 48-minute documentary entitled In Search of the Dragon's Tale.
So intrigued was the Turner Entertainment Networks (Asia Pacific) senior videotape editor, who also operates Flying Dragon Productions, with Chan that he mentioned the flautist to Hayamann Lau. As it turned out, Lau knew Chan and a meeting was arranged.
"He said that he was born in the Kowloon Walled City," Rankin said.
"As it turns out he doesn't have to play in the street at all. He wants to because he wants to play that kind of music to the people if they want to give moeny they give money. He was really doing it to try to increase the general musical appreciations of local passers-by."
Thus began their quest to "try and find out about the life that he lived in this place so that we can understand him". There was a slight problem, though. Their initial meeting with Chan took place last April, almost two years after the infamous Kowloon Walled City was finally laid to rest.
So, with only a garden to serve as a reminder of the notorios landmark, Rankin and Lau decided to do a bit of research and dig up as much photographic evidence and records of it as possible.
"What we wanted to do was create a story based on an oral tradition rather than a photographic record. We used a photographic record to enhance the story so we have to basically depend on other people's memories about what they saw and try to piece it together in some way," he said.
"There're a lot of misconceptions about the place and a lot of stereotypes. All of those stereotypes are true but there is also another level which no one ever really thought about - that normal people lived there. What we have are people telling us stories about what they did when they were there."
With the focus being more human interest than historical, Lau found the former "sleaziest" place in Hong Kong rather inviting. In her interviews with past residents, many of them called "a very good comunity" where "they did not have to lock ther doors". She also tracked down the postman who had delivered mail there for 10 years.
"The Kowloon Walled City was such a complicated area with so many alleys which were not properly numbered. Rather than take the stairs he had to leap from rooftop to rooftop," Lau said.
In Search of the Dragon's Tale has been picked up by a Taiwanese TV network and is being touted for broadcast in Australia. It has also been selected for consideration by the jury of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 1997, which will be held in Japan in October.
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