“Nanking,” a U.S. doc about 1937’s rape of Nanking by Japanese troops, has caused a sensation on its bow in the city, now called Nanjing.
One local benefactor donated more than $1,300 to pay for 1,000 people to watch the doc, while two other cinemas cut ticket prices from 25 yuan ($3.30) each to 10 yuan ($1.30), so that more people could see the film, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Pic mixes archive footage and readings by thesps such as Woody Harrelson, Stephen Dorff, Juergen Prochnow and Mariel Hemingway to tell the story of a group of foreigners who protected Chinese residents in Nanking from Japanese invaders.
“Nanking” bowed July 10 at the Heping theater but was picked up by all the major cinemas in the city. It was shown 12 times a day in some theaters, Xinhua reported.
The doc is based on Iris Chang’s book “The Rape of Nanking” and is largely sympathetic to the Chinese view of the massacre — China says 300,000 Chinese people were slaughtered by invading Japanese soldiers in Nanking; the 1948 Tokyo war crimes tribunal found Japanese troops killed 155,000 people.
There are ongoing tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over Japan’s wartime behavior and China’s belief that the Japanese have failed to atone properly. The Chinese government is keen that any movies about Nanking’s past serve nationalist interests, while also doing nothing to irk Japan, on whose trade it is reliant.
Helmers Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman said they received script approval but no interference with editorial content from the Chinese government. Pic was partly shot in Nanking and produced by AOL vice chairman Ted Leonsis.
“Nanking” looks to be the first of a flurry of pics on the subject to unspool in China this year, the 70th anni of the massacre.