Retelling Hong Kong’s Story with Movies and NFTs: Interview with James Li of Beam+ Lab

Retelling Hong Kong’s Story with Movies and NFT

BEAM+LAB invites us to relive the “Golden Age” of Hong Kong movies.

Classic movies made in the 80s—the “Golden Age” of Cantonese movies—like “Nomad” or “My Heart Is That Eternal Rose” greatly reflected Hong Kong’s culture. After all, Hong Kong, despite being a small city, is cultivated with cultures of the East and the West. However, while Hollywood movies are on the rise, the Hong Kong movie industry has been lagging behind. In light of that, BEAM+ LAB is attempting to bring the “Golden Age” back. 

The initial spark: what is BEAM+ LAB?

Eager to revive the glory of Hong Kong movies, BEAM+ LAB connects film production companies with creatives that want to revive classics to build a community in Web3 for the entertainment industry and movie enthusiasts. Movie fans can own and share iconic moments from their favorite classic movie in the format of  a non-fungible token (NFT). CEO of the Hong Kong start-up James Li says, “BEAM+ LAB aims to contribute to society and provide opportunities for Hong Kong movie industries.” 

Inaugural NFT project: CRYPTYQUES

In June, BEAM+ LAB launched its first NFT project CRYPTYQUES. “The project of 1,320 movie-themed NFTs differs from the traditional type of storytelling—movies,” says Li. While traditional movies present stories in an hour or two, CRYPTYQUES offers a step-by-step release of the NFT collection in three phases, namely the past, present and future phases. The past phase is based on the “seven emotions” (七情, QiQing)—desire, fury, fear, joy, bitterness, loathing and love

“The CRYPTYQUES exhibition is a story, and you are the main character,” says Li. You enter as a walking hollow monochrome shell, figuratively, of course. As you are dragging your feet around, there is a sudden spark of red on your left, music to your right, and you are blinded by the colorful videos of people from the past. At that moment, your hollow self is eventually filled with the colors you see, such as red, green, yellow and white.

CRYPTYQUES aims to bring together community and storytelling to usher in spiritual growth. By incorporating local culture, such as Kung Fu, into movie NFTs, the project allows the audience to immerse themselves in the city’s past, present and future and urges them to embark on a journey of self-discovery by “finding their own piece of memory” of Hong Kong. Those who are influenced by the culture will thus gain a sense of belonging and pride from Hong Kong movie-themed NFTs.

BEAM+LAB thinks this is particularly important for young people to learn about the beautiful past of Hong Kong by appreciating the legendary films. Hence, BEAM+LAB is channeling its effort to promote the project on social media to connect with younger generations who didn’t get the chance to live in the “Golden Age”. The NFTs from the “Desire” exhibition held from 8th to 26th June in art gallery Haus of Contemporary in Central were successfully sold out during whitelist sales and before public sales. In the meantime, the other six NFT exhibitions of this phase as well as the present and future phases are still in progress.

What is CRYPTYQUES?

CRYPTYQUES is more than just an NFT collection; it is also a crypto-quest to trigger the emotions of audiences. “[The] audiences go into our exhibition with a blank mind and come out equipped with past collective memories,” says Li. To co-create with the public, he and his team collaborated with Wing Shya, an internationally-acclaimed director and photographer from Hong Kong, to produce the entire NFT collection of CRYPTYQUES. “We want to invite our community to get involved in the product and the content with social media or other applications, like Discord,” mentions Li.     

 Here’s a peek at the “7 Emotions: Desire” collection: 

What is CRYPTYQUES
Leslie Cheung in “Nomad”
Image courtesy of BEAM+ LAB
Li’s journey of creating CRYPTQUES
Tony Leung in “My Heart Is That Eternal Rose”
Image courtesy of BEAM+ LAB

Li’s journey of creating CRYPTQUES

The birth of CRYPTYQUES was not a simple one. The team initially conceived the idea for the project back in January of this year. It was a race against time to find investors, plan and develop the idea. It was not until March that they finalized the project. 

While dealing with the lack of time, Li had to get accustomed to the new working style. “Working in BEAM+ is actually quite new for me. There is no constricted routine,” But in the case of a startup, he finds, “Challenges emerged every minute when I was working on CRYPTYQUES.” What’s more? To deal with problems effectively, you must respond to them immediately. Despite all the difficulties, Li looks at the experience as a training of his problem-solving skills. 

Fortunately, his friends and team were extremely supportive of his startup journey. He says, “When I told my teammates and friends about my difficulties, they always listened and gave me advice. All thanks to them, the knots of my problems can be untied.” 

Teamwork makes the dream work  

Creating a project is no easy task; there is a lot to juggle. The limited time or the new working style may hinder the production process. Luckily, Sisyphus’ boulder seems less heavy when people push it together. 

Li mentions that he had an incredible team who had each other’s backs. When he and his team were working on CRYPTYQUES, he tells us, “We faced a lot of different criticisms.” That said, the team received tremendous support from Wing Shya. Li feels, “[Wing] has given the team valuable advice from his personal experience.”

The roads in life may be rocky, but he believes that “teamwork makes the dream work”. The discussions and inspiration from team members have resulted in unique ideas and suggestions for the launch. “During this project, there were a lot of beautiful moments. The best one is the launching of the exhibition. Our hard work is recognized through the appreciation or remarks of the audience,” he notes.

Spoiler alert! The future prospects of BEAM+  LAB

There will be more NFT collection releases of other emotions and phases following the storyline development of CRYPTYQUES. The project will be a long-term development that will feature “high quality and high engagement co-creation”. And do anticipate more NFT events in the future, says Li. 

There are even plans to enter the metaverse spaces. Li states, “[Our] high-quality products will be seen in foreign countries in two to three months.” Once immersive technology is more mature, there will be a fascinating experience awaiting audiences on their journey of self-revelation. 

Also read: 

Header image courtesy of BEAM+ LAB

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