Contemplations in Chungking: Exploring the possibilities of immersive film on a psychogeographic journey through Hong Kong

Stephen Dawkins, Sarah Jones

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


The research questions for this project are related to the sense of representation of place, especially busy city spaces, through use of immersive production and distribution technologies. This field currently has little research but is significant due to the increasing prevalence and affordability of 360-degree filmmaking tools. Our key research questions follow:

– What relationship can be established between elements of traditional documentary film-making and emerging forms of production?

– If experiential film enables a more immersive experience of place than traditional film, what implications might this have for representations of space and place?

– How can narratives be constructed in the film where an audience is not directed to observe and experience the events of a film in a particular order?

These research questions enable us to simultaneously interrogate how new technologies of production push the boundaries of documentary practice and to provide a tentative framework for how experiential 360-degree film technologies can be used by producers and experiencers to adopt a different relationship to the documentary text.

The starting point for the project was to use 360-degree filmmaking technology to record a space that we were aware of but had not previously visited and hence Contemplations in Chungking was shot on a first visit to Chungking Mansions in 2016. Famous as the setting for Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express (1994), the Mansions is a seventeen-storey commercial and residential complex, described as “a world hub of low-end globalisation” (Mathews 2014: no page). On the ground floor, the building is a complex maze-like market forming the workplace to an estimated 4,000 people and receiving approximately 10,000 visitors per day. Hostels providing some of the cheapest accommodation in Hong Kong are situated on the upper floors of the Mansions.

In his Theory of the Derive, one of Debord’s rules for a dérive was that “the average duration of a dérive is one day, considered as the time between two periods of sleep” (1958:no page). So, our original aim was to ‘drift’ around the location and shoot a 360-degree film quickly and reactively over one day to capture the feel of the place as first-time visitors and consider how we could most effectively communicate this to what we have termed the experiencers, as opposed to an audience or viewers, in a virtual environment.

Once we encountered the location, it quickly became clear that this was a more complex space than envisaged, with complicated ebbs and flows of capital, goods and people as well as visibly sophisticated relationships between the residents and visitors. Therefore, Contemplations in Chungking was produced over two days, rather than the originally intended single day. The resulting film captures the essence and rhythms of the environment by enabling an exploration of the culture and communities that exist within the world of the Mansions.

Through our mode of production this film begins to explore the new forms of experimental/observational documentary that might be possible with immersive filming techniques, specifically 360-degree filming for VR experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationScreenworks
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Screenworks publishes practice research that produces new knowledge in Communication, Media and Cultural Studies, Art and Design, Performing Arts and related fields. We offer a forum for the dissemination and discussion of practice research that includes space for reflection on research contexts. Work is published alongside a research statement, which offers a ‘route map’ of the research process, together with two anonymous reviews, which provide critical feedback on both the work itself and its research context.


  • immersion psychogeography 360-degree documentary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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