"Nanking" attracts young and old in Nanjing
www.chinaview.cn 2007-07-21 16:37:58   Print

    NANJING, July 21 (Xinhua) -- An unidentified person has donated 10,000 yuan (about 1,320 U.S. dollars) to allow 1,000 people watch the U.S. documentary Nanking that chronicles Japan's notorious 1937 invasion of the Chinese city Nanjing and massacre of its residents.

    Two major cinemas discounted ticket prices from 25 yuan each to10 yuan, so that more people could see the film. All the 1,000 tickets were handed out in one and a half hours on Friday.

    Grey hairs, middle-age parents with their children and young people who wanted to know the city's history went to watch the film.

    "As residents in Nanjing, we shall never forget the history," a woman surnamed Li told her 9-year-old son at the gate of Heping Theater.

    Titled starkly "Nanking" (the old name for Nanjing), the film features interviews with Chinese survivors and Japanese soldiers, along with pictures, letters, and diaries read by actors portraying westerners who helped save more than 200,000 Chinese refugees in Nanjing in 1937.

    Box office in Heping Theater that showed the film first in Nanjing was 100,000 yuan in the past ten days, which was a record high for documentaries in the theater.

    Nanking was shown only on one screen in Heping Theater on July 10, soon it appeared on all the major cinemas in the city. It was shown 12 times a day in some cinemas.

    Many enterprises have made block bookings for the film until August.

    The Nanjing Massacre occurred in December 1937 when Japanese troops occupied the then capital of China. More than 300,000 Chinese were believed murdered and thousands of women raped.

    "I felt that the massacre had largely been ignored by history. I hope we can tell people the truth," said Bill Guttentag, who shot the film with partner Dan Sturman, earlier this month in Shanghai.

    The idea came from Ted Leonsis, vice chairman of America Online, who came across an obituary of a young writer named Iris Chang who wrote the best-selling book "The Rape of Nanking."

    Leonsis bought the book and was startled to discover a tragedy he had never heard of. He decided to use two million U.S. dollars of his own money to shoot a documentary film on the Nanking Massacre, and invited the Academy Award-winning writer/director team of Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman to co-direct it.

    Leonsis revealed his motivation in his blog: "As someone who has always believed in the power of goodness, I wanted to do something to share this story with others, and so I put together are search and production team, and decided to fund this movie and serve as its producer."

    Guttentag adopted the angle of a handful of brave westerners who worked in horrific circumstances to save the lives of several hundred thousand Chinese civilians.

    Guttentag and his crew visited six countries over a period of eight months to collect video, audio and written materials.

    The crew interviewed 240 Japanese soldiers still alive, six of whom appeared in the film, the youngest being almost 90 years old.

    Guttentag also interviewed 30 Nanjing massacre survivors. He was still haunted by the story of Zhang Zhiqiang, who was only 9 years old in 1937. After his mother was killed by a Japanese soldier, he still remembered his baby brother trying to suck the breast of his mother covered in blood.

    The film has received numerous plaudits including an accolade from Reuters who called it a "beautifully crafted film...(that) honors the highest calling of documentary filmmaking."

    Beijing's cinemas have 8 copies of the film and Shanghai has ordered 18.

    But so far no Japanese distributors have approached the Nanking production team to express an interest in distributing the documentary in Japan.

    "Our film isn't an anti-Japanese film. It is an anti-war film," said Guttentag.

Editor: Song Shutao
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