A U.S. docu about 1937’s Rape of Nanking looks to be the first of a wave of pics on the subject to unspool in China this year, the 70th anni of the massacre.
“Nanking” bows July 3 in Beijing and will be released across China on July 7, and is sure to heighten tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over Japan’s wartime behavior and China’s belief that the Japanese have failed to atone properly.
Pic mixes archive footage and readings by thesps such as Woody Harrelson, Stephen Dorff, Juergen Prochnow and Mariel Hemingway about a group of foreigners who protected Chinese residents in Nanking from Japanese invaders.
Given that Chinese state broadcaster CCTV is one of the co-producers, local auds are likely to find the pic 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.
A group of 100 Japanese parliamentarians drew criticism from China for saying last week that documents from their government’s archives indicated only about 20,000 were killed.
Helmers Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman say 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.
Keeping track of the various projects being made on the Rape of Nanking is difficult, and there are any number of treatments and projects doing the rounds.
Hong Kong helmer Yim Ho, who made “Pavilion of Women” featuring Willem Dafoe in 2001, had problems getting his script through for “Nanking Xmas 1937,” which like many other projects, focuses on the efforts of foreigners to shelter Chinese from the Japanese.
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.
With its $35 million budget it could do business abroad.
China Film Group and Jiangsu Broadcasting Corp., which is the broadcasting arm of the Jiangsu government — the province where Nanking is located — were reported during the Shanghai Film Festival to have boarded Lu Chuan’s “Nanking! Nanking!” as co-financiers. The $12 million film also has financing from Hong Kong-based Media Asia and Beijing’s Stellar Media.
Lu went through five months of wrangling to get approval for the script.
Producer Gerald Green’s Viridian Entertainment reportedly also had backing from the Jiangsu state government for his $50 million-$60 million project on the subject, although there has been little heard about the adaptation of the Iris Chang’s bestseller “The Rape of Nanking” since its high-profile launch last year.
Hong Kong director Stanley Tong, best known for his work on action movies with Jackie Chan, is working on “The Diary,” which would be released by the Dec. 13 anniversary of the invasion. Tong said the $40 million project, by his China Intl. Media Group, has received approval from Chinese film authorities and adds that coin would come from Germany, the U.S., Japan and China.