It Must Not Happen Again
When the Japanese occupied China during World War II, soldiers randomly slaughtered 200,000 innocent men, women and children, raped 20,000 women and children and mutilated countless others. In Nanking, directors Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman present rarely seen archival footage that shows us exactly what was done--a young girl's arm is hacked off, for example--by the occupying soldiers. "We had nothing to do," says one soldier who was interviewed, "so we raped girls."
It is as shocking as you might imagine, as gruesome as horror film gore that's manufactured by CGI and special effects. But this archival footage was shot by an Episcopal priest, John Magee, and it is incontrovertibly real.
Hearing from Victims and Extraordinary Heroes
We also meet and listen to the eyewitness accounts of survivors whom the film's producer, Ted Leonsis, and directors found still living in China. One women tells us that the repeated rape she suffered when she was a girl left her in need of wearing diapers throughout her adult life. Amazingly, she speaks without bitterness and expresses her constant hope that no body else will ever experience what she did.
These actual elements of the documentary are interspersed with dramatic readings of the letters, diaries and other documents written by John Magee and several other Westerners who could have left the city, but opted to remain in Nanking to help the Chinese people who were being brutalized.
Documentary Dramatization at Its Best
Documentary filmmking and dramatization don't often work well together, but Nanking is an exception.
Nanking is one of fifteen documentaries shortlisted for consideration for the 2007 Oscar for Best Feature Length Documentary. The film has already been seen by more than two million people in China and about 100,000 in the U.S. If you can't find it playing at a theater near you, keep you eye out for the release of the DVD.
Nanking is profoundly moving. It's a must-see. Add it to your list.