Why was a Holocaust with a death count of hundreds of thousands a forgotten one? And why is it being remembered now? While this subject has often been placed into the realm of political sentiment, at the heart of it is simply a matter of finding self-identity from the past.
China fifty years ago after the Holocaust was burdened by the toll that Qing dynasty decay, WWII, and a devastating civil war took on it, in no shape to ask for any sort of remembrance for the victims of the massacres. Also, unlike the Jews after World War II, China was communist and thus could not receive help in this matter from abroad. Thus fifty years passed while China tried to rebuild itself with far more pressing matters to think about than the past. Only the present and future mattered. However, recently China has gotten to a economic state where she has the luxury of remembering this forgotten Holocaust.
Recently a string of movies have been made about this subject; as the Chinese movie industry grows, more and more Chinese directors have wanted to tackle it. The newest is perhaps the most promising yet…Nanking! Nanking! by Lu Chuan, starring Liu Ye and Gao Yuanyuan.
Trailer for Nanking! Nanking! (opens this summer)
Unlike the Jewish Holocaust, which has had almost continuous publicity in those fifty years due to the efforts of many from Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein to another Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel to Oscar winner Steven Spielberg, China’s Holocaust almost seems completely a thing of the past. Finally however, China seems to have the resources to look at this forgotten Holocaust, and many movie directors want to probe their past.
Lu Chuan talks about his attitude towards filming this movie. It is interesting that while Chinese directors finally have the resources to tackle this subject, some of the restrictions actually come from the Chinese government, who don’t wish to damage relationships with the Japanese. However, I feel that these superficial reservations will start lessening in the future, and there will be more and more of these movies, with lesser restrictions on how they can portray them. For right now, it may be best since as with Lu Chuan’s movie, directors are taking a look at the Japanese side of the story and it can bring greater understanding to the public.
Lu Chuan is a good director, and I feel he can bring some justice to the story. But I don’t think his telling of the story will be the pinnacle of movies about this massacre, and I look forward to seeing even better movies come out. Zhang Yimou has said that he wants to do a movie about The 13 Women of Jinling, based on the book by women writer, Yan Geling, which tells the story of 13 Chinese prostitutes trying to defend their city against Japanese soldiers. That seems like a really interesting plot, and Zhang Yimou has always had a talent for bring out humanity in all of his films, the wuxia ones aside.
To me what occurred in World War II in China should not be taken about as a ___vs ___scenario, or a political one. It’s about humanity, and it seems very logical that people will want to remember and reflect on what happened, and it is something that should be remembered.
I have to make a note here at the end, that I do not want any comments bashing on any other race. I’ve been kind of uneasy at seeing that occasionally here, and it seems unwarranted and unnecessary.