Two films about the Nanjing Massacre are coming to China at the end of April, possibly sparking controversy about one of the most sensitive topics in China’s history.
Chinese director Lu Chuan’s film “City of Life and Death” (alternative titles: Nanjing!Nanjing! or Nanking!Nanking) will be released on April 22, followed soon after by German WWII biopic “John Rabe” on April 29, according to the AP.
Both films deal with the atrocities committed by the Japanese invading army during the 1937 Battle of Nanjing. Somewhere around 300,000 Chinese were said to have been killed in those months, though the number varies widely depending on who you ask. Japanese estimates are still far lower, which has contributed to the sentiment shared by many Chinese people that Japan still has not properly acknowledged the event.
Because the topic of the films is still so controversial and inflammatory in China, filmmakers and others are worried about how the public will react. Audience members at screenings of “City of Life and Death” tended to divide into two groups: those who agree with Director Lu Chuan’s view that war makes everyone crazy and those who were angry that Japanese soldiers are presented as human beings, according to Lu. “The angry ones — their voices are louder…They want to tear me to pieces,” Lu told the Hollywood Reporter.
But Lu explained that he wanted the film to be objective and educational for both Chinese and Japanese audiences. “In the past, Chinese films often demonized Japanese soldiers, yet they never probed deeply enough into how and why the war happened,” he said in an interview. “I made this film in order to open a window for more discourse on either side.”
“City of Life and Death” is the third feature film by popular Chinese director Lu Chuan, best known for his award-winning 2004 film “Kekexili.” The film tells the story of the battle from the perspectives of both historical and fictional characters.
“John Rabe,” directed by German filmmaker Florian Gallenberger, describes the life and work of German businessman John Rabe, who saved over 200,000 Chinese refugees during the Massacre. The film was nominated for 13 German Film Awards and won two Bavarian Film Awards. Watch the trailer (sorry – it’s in German with Chinese subtitles) before it’s released.
Photo from BBS.YKBTV.