Nanking

Documentary produced 2007 by Purple Mountain Productions, distributed by Fortissimo Films, budget of $2 million, color 35mm negative, 1.85:1 screen ratio, digital sound, 88 mins.

   

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Notes:

"The horrific 1937-38 massacre of more than 200,000 Chinese during the early days of the Japanese occupation gets a polished presentation in "Nanking." Chilling subject matter will prove a tough sell theatrically but should find viewers willing to brave its horrors on cable. Before the Japanese invaded the city on Dec. 13, 1937, Nanking, then China's thriving capital, was home to numerous European and American expats -- 22 of whom chose to stay behind to help the poor and dispossessed who were unable to flee the city in time. Their excerpted writings, as read by a group of actors, serve as the film's narrative framework. The prominent figures include Minnie Vautrin (Mariel Hemingway), head of a Christian missionary college; John Rabe (Jurgen Prochnow), a German businessman who attempted to use his Nazi Party influence to stop the carnage; minister John Magee (Hugo Armstrong), who set up a hospital to care for the wounded; and missionary George Fitch (John Getz). Together, they established a makeshift safety zone that spanned two square miles and provided refuge for some 200,000 civilians (and soldiers pretending to be civilians). Although the Japanese soldiers managed to breach the zone, claiming to be in search of Chinese troops but killing indiscriminately, "Nanking" remarkably details how a few vastly outnumbered Westerners managed, to a certain extent, to keep their enemies at bay -- even suggesting that the presence of foreign onlookers stirred fear among the Japanese ranks." (Variety, Jan. 22, 2007)

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revised 1/28/07 by Steven Schoenherr | Filmnotes