Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
Directed by: Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman
Running time: 90 minutes
Release date: December 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
This powerful film reflects and examines the early days of World War II in Nanking, China. In 1931, the Japanese occupied Machuria and established Manchuoko (a puppet Japanese state). On August 13 - 15, 1937 Japan attacked Shanhai and Nanking.
The story is told through deeply moving interviews with Chinese survivors, chilling archival footage and photos of the events, and testimonies of former Japanese soldiers of how the Japan started their campaign to conquer all of China. The film focuses on Nanking, China (then the capital of China) and the months of aerial bombardment. When the city fell, the Japanese army unleashed murder and rape on a horrifying scale. In the midst of this rampage, a small group of Westermers banded together to set up a Safety Zone where over 200,000 Chinese found refuge. Unarmed missionaries, university professors, doctors and businessmen - including a Nazi named John Rabe - bore witness to the events, while risking their own lives to protect the civilians.
The documentary of Nanking is a filmed stage reading of Westerners' letters and diaries, featuring Woody Harrelson as Dr. Bob Wilson who was born in Nanking in 1906, Mariel Hemingway as Minnie Vautrin who moved to Nanking from Illinois in 1912 to become chairman of the education department at Ginling College (founded in 1916) and Jurgen Prochnow as John Rabe, a German business and Nazi party member, who moved to China in 1910. Rabe tried to use his influence to stop the violence and harbored 650 Chinese civilians on his wealthy Chinese estate. Staged-trained actor John Getz read from the diary of George Fitch who was born in China in 1883 and became a priest in 1909 and work at the YMCA in Nanking. Stephen Dorff another actor read notes from Lewis Smythe who moved to Nanking from Chicago in 1910 as a missionary and taught at the University of Nanking and wrote 69 protest letters to the Japanese army for their actions. Hugo Armstrong as Reverend John Magee was an ordained Episcopal minister who filmed the atrocities. Other cast members are Rosalind Chao as Chang Yu Zheng, Michelle Krusiec as Yang Shu Ling, Graham Sibley as Miner Searle Bates, Sonny Saito as Hiroshi Sakai (a Japanese soldier) and Robert Wu as Li Pu (a Chinese soldier). On August 1946 through February 1947 the Nanking War Trails was held.
This gripping account is a testiment to the courage and conviction of individuals who were determined to act in the face of evil and a powerful tribute to the resilience of the Chinese people.
FILM RATING (A+)