China’s latest debate: the story of the Nanking massacre told by "Japanese Schindler"
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Despite its popularity in Chinese cinemas, the director of a film which attempts to deal with "The Rape of Nanking" - the 1937 Japanese massacre in China's former capital - has come under fire on the Chinese web, for his apparent compassion with the Japanese soldiers. Read more and see the trailer...
Despite its popularity in Chinese cinemas, the director of a film which attempts to deal with "The Rape of Nanking" - the 1937 Japanese massacre in China's former capital - has come under fire on the Chinese web, for his apparent compassion with the Japanese soldiers.
With World War II well under way, on 13 December 1937 the Japanese army stormed the then capital of the Republic of China, Nanking. What followed was six weeks of horror for the defeated army and the civilian population. No less than 300,000 people, subjected to the cruelest atrocities, were killed.
It took four years, almost 80 million yuan (€8.8 million), and 20,000 unpaid extras for director Lu Chuan to bring this bloody episode to the big screen.
"City of Life and Death" (or "Nanking Nanking!" in Chinese) presents the story from the point of view of several characters including a Chinese soldier and a primary school teacher, but also a Japanese soldier consumed by guilt - a personality which web users have labelled the "Japanese Oskar Schindler".
Released a week ago in more than a third of Chinese theatres, the film has already raked in 7.5 million euros in just five days. Heeding to a few modification demands in advance (see third paragraph of this article), the film has also managed to benefit from advertising on the part of the government propaganda department: "Nanking Nanking!" has made it on to the top ten films listed to commemorate the republic's 60 year anniversary.
The Nanking memorial
Posted on Flickr by Nicolas Harter.
Posted on Flickr by Anton Hazewinkel.
Posted on Flickr by "glazaro".
Posted on Flickr by "wuji9981".
Shots from the film
Photos posted on Chinasmack.
"The Japanese were the only enemies who took to civilians"Jing Shenghong is a professor at Nanking University and specialist of the Nanking massacre.
The director was right to tell this story from the viewpoint of a Japanese soldier. He wasn't trying to improve the image of the Japanese, but to give another perspective on the events. A part of the army was ashamed during the massacre and felt sympathy for the Chinese. There are archives which prove it - the diary of John Rabe for example [a Nazi and president of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, which saved hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens], and other Western accounts also.
But for those who say that the Japanese soldier is China's Oskar Schindler, I have to say that couldn't be further from the truth. He only saved one or two Chinese people from committing suicide. It's completely different from what Schindler did.
The trauma this massacre brought about is still very present today. It's a sentiment of both humiliation and great sadness. By approaching this subject from a Japanese viewpoint, it revives nationalist feelings. The Japanese were the only enemies who took to civilians rather than fighting purely between soldiers. At that time there was a real hatred between the two countries, which has transformed today into mistrust and uneasiness."
"Is the director Chinese or Japanese?"
Comment posted on this forum.
I survived that massacre and it was a long time ago. Lu Chuan's film hurt me. I'm not talking about the story, but the way it was treated by the director. Why use ‘Kadokawa', the Japanese soldier, as a narrator? And to imply that he played the same role as Schindler, it's really unbearable. It's not even fiction, it's just provocation.
The Japanese army killed 300,000 people during their invasion of our city. In light of that, why invent a character that confuses people. Is the director Chinese or Japanese? If he did that just to win over Japanese audiences and get extra money, then he's got no morals!"
Posted by "Ebayeye" on the Sina forum.
That bloody and tearful bitter history of the Chinese nation, as a Chinese person of a later generation, we must never forget. Speaking of forgiveness, some things cannot be forgiven. Compassion for the enemy is cruelty to ourselves."
Comment posted on the Mop forum:
Past films and reports always made the Japanese out to be simpletons, short and small, even mentally disabled. I do not think this is funny at all, because it insults the enemies who once defeated you, and essentially insults yourself. I also really dislike those fenqing [primitive nationalists] who are always yelling about killing all of Japan and capturing Tokyo. In my eyes, you guys are even worse than Ah-Q [a mythical legend in Chinese literature who refuses to admit defeat and turns even the greatest humiliation into a ‘spiritual defeat']. Because not one of you is likely to step foot into Japan in his life."