Saturday, March 31, 2007

[HKIFF] Nanking

We Will Remember

If I am going to recommend a documentary, then Nanking will be it. The Rape of Nanking just prior to World War II is examined in this film, which contains real stock footage of clips smuggled out of China during the time of Japanese occupation. Interviews with surviving Chinese victims, and a number of Japanese Imperial Army soldiers who took part in the campaign, are conducted by the filmmakers, and it is always chilling to learn from them first hand, on their respective perspective of those horrible years of the Japanese invasion of China.

You will definitely squirm at the tearful, vivid recollection of atrocities from rapes, shootings, knifing from bayonets, and even burning, while the archive clips bring to screen scenes and pictures of such barbaric acts. Tales of plundering, looting, the forceful taking away of young men to be shot and young girls or boys, children even, for brutal rape, are told with an unflinching eye. In fact, nothing is re-enacted in this film, opting instead for actors (such as Woody Harrelson, Mariel Hemmingway and Michelle Krusiec) to portray real historical characters and only as narrators of their personal diaries and memoirs of their stay in Nanking during the invasion and subsequent occupation.

While the rest of the world stood by and did nothing, a handful of foreigners who opted to stay in the city, did what they could by organizing themselves and setting up a Safety Zone for the Chinese refugees, using all the power that they could (which was very little, save for the fact that they are foreigners) to protect their charges from the looting, plundering, killing and rape that takes place on a regular basis outside their zone. And it is indeed this Zone which had saved thousands of lives, that this documentary paid a sort of tribute to.

If this is an anti-war picture, then I'd say it would have done a very good job, highlighting the immense amount of evil that man is capable of inflicting on fellow man. Even up until today, the Massacre of Nanjing is still hotly debated, especially on the number of unfortunate casualties and victims, and the enshrinement of war criminals which have irked the Chinese.

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