This genuinely shocking documentary exposes Japan's WWII war crimes and explores the reasons for the convenient historical amnesia afflicting both Japan and the US.
A Chinese woman, miraculously still alive, her identity lost to history, bends over for the camera, the better to display the mutilation wrought by Japanese soldiers who attempted to behead her. As evidence of man's inhumanity to man (and woman), these few, horrific frames of film are
heartstopping. They are also irrefutable proof that history has been host to many holocausts, and not just the ones we are willing to talk about.
In 1937, Japan invaded the Chinese capital of Nanjing and within six weeks, some 300,000 Chinese were killed and 20,000 women raped. As the documentary makes clear, this scourge of history, the "Rape of Nanjing," is barely known today, largely due to the white-washing of WWII era historians, as
well as the traditional Japanese educational and political policy of "don't ask, don't tell." The film recounts how the US government helped facilitate this cover-up through insufficient investigation and punishment during the Tokyo war crimes tribunal following WWII.
Christine Choy and Nancy Tong, the directors of this incisive, crucially important documentary, went into the Shinjiku district of today's Tokyo and interviewed young people, all of whom professed total ignorance of these dark events. The filmmakers also interviewed various professors, whose
reactions range from complete, shameful denial to the anguished, frustrated attempts of a few brave souls to throw light on the truth.
The Ministry of Education was forbidden to write about the massacre--as a result, textbooks have long been censored. However, invaluable footage of the invasion, which includes the above-mentioned moment, was surreptitiously filmed by the Reverend John Magee, an American missionary. We hear
entries from the diary he kept which tell of the harrowing sights witnessed and exhaustive attempts to help the hundreds of refugees who came to his door. Perhaps most chilling of all are the accounts of surviving Japanese soldiers, paragons of the "just following orders" school. They
matter-of-factly describe skewering a woman and her two babies like potatoes or hunting people down like rabbits in the street. "It would have been all right if we'd only raped them--I shouldn't say 'all right,'" one recalls. "But we always stabbed and then killed them."
The film is a terse, impassioned flood of terrifying revelations that raise questions of tremendous importance. The Japanese tradition of saving face at all costs--which manifests itself not only in the cover-up of past atrocities but also in recent international skullduggery (e.g., the Daiwa Bank
collapse)--reveals itself all too clearly here. This exceptional documentary will enlighten viewers not only about our common past, but also about the world that surrounds us today. (Violence, adult situations, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: This genuinely shocking documentary exposes Japan's WWII war crimes and explores the reasons for the convenient historical amnesia afflicting both Japan and the US. A Chinese woman, miraculously still alive, her identity lost to history, bends over for th… (more)