Nanjing Massacre Inspires Global Film-Makers 70 Years On

By David de Sola

Aug 21 2007

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) – Seven decades have yet to ease the
bitterness surrounding wartime Japanese troops’ occupation of the
Chinese city of Nanjing, but they have inspired a raft of new films
due out this year.

On the 70th anniversary of the 1937 invasion, at least six movies
recounting the fall of China’s wartime capital — then called Nanking
— to invading Japanese soldiers are in various stages of production
or will be completed in the next 12 months in the United States,
China and Hong Kong.

China says Japanese troops slaughtered 300,000 men, women and children,
while an Allied tribunal after World War Two put the death toll at
142,000 and found evidence of 20,000 rapes.

Some Japanese rightists historians say the numbers are exaggerated,
estimating 20,000 soldiers and civilians were killed. Others deny a
massacre happened at all.

"Nanjing stirs up passions because, like the Holocaust or the Armenian
genocide or the Cambodian killing fields, it is an affront to human
dignity," Professor Phil Deans, an expert on Sino-Japanese relations
at Temple University in Kyoto, said.

The first film on the block was "Nanking", a U.S.-produced documentary
detailing the conduct of Japanese troops through eye-witness accounts
and grainy historical footage to depict what one Chinese survivor
called the Japanese army’s "three alls" policy: kill all, burn all,
loot all.

The film’s creators hoped their work wouldn’t open old wounds but
promote a pacifist message between China and Japan.

"Predominantly, this is an anti-war movie, not an anti-Japanese movie,"
the movie’s producer and AOL vice-chairman Ted Leonsis told Reuters
in July when it premiered in Beijing.


Richard Kwang, producer of an upcoming Hong Kong movie "Nanking
Xmas 1937", said his project wouldn’t dwell on the darker aspects of
humanity, but on the "selfless love" of the Western missionaries who
chose to stay behind to help survivors.

"You won’t see a lot of heavy stuff, not a lot of violence being
shown. We are telling the story through the eyes of the Western
missionaries with the massacre as the backdrop," he said.

Kwang said he hoped to sign up A-list actors for the film — which
would be in English — suggesting a high degree of interest among
foreign audiences in the occupation.

Other films in the works include a joint Chinese, American and British
production based on the late Iris Chang’s bestselling book "The Rape
of Nanking" called "Purple Mountain", while Canadian film-maker Bill
Spahic plans to tell Chang’s life story in a documentary due for
release in December.

Chinese director Lu Chuan meanwhile, has received approval from
Beijing to begin filming "Nanking! Nanking!".

But in a sign of continued divisiveness over the topic, a Japanese
documentary backed by nationalist figures will deny that any massacre
took place.

Director Satoru Mizushima told Reuters early this year that the film
"Nanking" was full of "lies and fabrications" and it was easy to deploy
"made-up facts" and "faked photographs".

A group of conservative lawmakers in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic
Party also denounced "Nanking" as a fabrication.

This is not the first time a film showing the 1937 Nanjing occupation
has caused controversy in Japan.

In 1988, the Japanese distributor of the Oscar-winning film "The
Last Emperor" removed a 30-second clip showing old newsreel footage
of Japanese soldiers committing atrocities in the city.

"The revisionist historical position has strengthened in the last
decade," said Deans, the Sino-Japanese expert.

Deans noted the recent resignation of Japan’s defense minister Fumio
Kyuma — who broached a taboo wartime issue by appearing to condone
the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World
War II as inevitable.

By contrast, Deans added: "No one resigned because they said the
Nanjing massacre never happened".