Directed by Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman
Based on Iris Chang's book The Rape of Nanking, this film-length documentary relates the terrible events that lasted for six weeks from December 13, 1937, following the entry of the Imperial Japanese Army into Nanjing, the Chinese capital of the time.
Making full use of film evidence, historical documents such as journals and letters (narrated by actors), as well as the eyewitness testimony of survivors, this sober, responsible, yet inevitably shocking work describes an atrocity whose sheer magnitude ensures its reverberation down to the present day. Even those already acquainted with the grim facts can expect to be profoundly affected by this multifaceted portrait of abysmal horror.
The documentary nevertheless makes a brave attempt to inject an element of Schindler's List-style redemption into the midst of mass-murder, rape and torture, by detailing the especially well-documented feat of Western residents who – not yet at war with Japan – were able to establish a limited "safety zone" within which 200,000 Chinese civilians took refuge.
A disturbing epilogue confirms the persistence of a fundamental mismatch between Chinese and Japanese perceptions of the massacre. A Japanese nationalist atrocity-denial movie, with the provisional title The Truth About Nanking, is apparently already in the works.
(That's Beijing by Nick Land September 26, 2007)