Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Rape of Nanking Documentary

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the late Iris Chang's book, "The Rape of Nanking" was in the process of being made into a documentary. I'm very impressed that someone has finally managed to invest some money into drawing attention to the Nanking Massacre, a highly influential part of Chinese history that has long been ignored by Western media. However, I'm extremely disappointed to read that this documentary will be focussing on the Westerners who tried to save the residents of the city then known as Nanking.

The film, still untitled, chronicles the story of a dozen Westerners, including a Nazi businessman, who risked their lives and used their influence in Nanking in December 1937 to create a safe zone to protect 250,000 Chines.
Although Chang spends some time describing these people in her book, and though it is part of the story, it is disconcerting that the Nanking Massacre, itself would not be the focus of the story; rather the filmmakers are placing the White people in greater importance in a story surrounding the mass murder of countless Chinese. For the first mainstream media focus on the Nanking Massacre yet, I don't think it's too much to expect more of a Chinese focus.


Anonymous Carmen Van Kerckhove said...

Ugh that is such bullshit, and completely insulting to the countless Chinese who lost their lives in this massacre.

I've been to Nanjing and have visited the museum/memorial of the massacre, and literally you walk through hills heaped with skeletons from the victims. It's something I will never forget.

This sounds like it'll be just another story about white people saving the day.

8/01/2006 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

wow - they have hills heaped with skeletons? that must have been an insane, mind-blowing and totally sombre sight to see.

8/01/2006 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger jose said...

Disgusting, yet typically patronizing of Hollywood. Chang provided a balanced look and this would be a disservice to the work that took her life.

"The viewing public . . . want something when they leave the theater that they can talk about and feel good about," Leonsis said. "For all the horror in Nanking, this is ultimately a story about 12 heroes who saved 250,000 people from death."

Nanking... the feelgood hit! Sorry, but the story of Nanking is ultimately a story about the area's 635,000 citizens.

8/01/2006 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Well, don't get it twisted -- this film WILL serve to make White people feel good. After all, they get to play the role of the saviour, coming in to save us barbaric yellowfolk from ourselves.

8/01/2006 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger Cocacy said...

I completely agree with you all -- this is an extremely disturbing but extremely predictable and overused practice of Hollywood. When making films, whether narrative or documentary, about people of color, white people will ineveitably place themselves in the position of authority --- savior to the colored people so the movie becomes about the white person, not the people of color. I can think of a ton of examples but the most glaring recent example would be The Constant Gardener directed by Fernando Meirelles, a white Brazilian who directed City of God. In the film a white British married couple go to Africa to do relief work. The wife is killed because of her liberal political views. The film then becomes about her husband un- covering the truth behind his wife's rape/murder. Meanwhile, the experimentation of Africans by the pharmaceutical conglomerate takes a back seat to this love story between two privileged white people. I was offended not only as an African American but at the glaring commonality of this practice.

Iris Chang's books have been in my personal library for some time and its unfortunate that a film created after her unfortunate death would "bastardize" the content of her important, timeless works. As always, I look forward to reading more of your posts! :)

8/01/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger 100LittleDolls said...

Ugh, how utterly infuriating and entirely heartbreaking.

8/02/2006 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous nonwhiteperson said...

Ted Leonsis was cruising the Caribbean on his yacht a couple of years ago, poring over old newspapers, when he noticed an obituary for Iris Chang, author of "The Rape of Nanking,"...The story stuck with him, and after he read Chang's book his preoccupation with the tale grew. Then he pulled out his checkbook.

He probably didn't even consult with her family for permission to use to book or to get the facts right. This trivializes one of the biggest atrocities in human history. This guy is an ignoramus.

"The viewing public . . . want something when they leave the theater that they can talk about and feel good about. For all the horror in Nanking, this is ultimately a story about 12 heroes who saved 250,000 people from death."

A Hollywood feel good film with the Rape of Nanking as a backdrop is insulting on many levels. They should call it Rape of Nanking: Part 2.

The Chinese initially discussed owning an interest in the film, but Leonsis said its credibility would be enhanced if a third party told the story.

Okay right.

8/02/2006 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Ann said...

This type of behaviour is normal for Hollywood.

Anytime a film about POC is considered I am sure all the head honchos are just sitting around trying to figure out how to apply the "Mississippi Burning Syndrome" to this book or any book that pertains to all things historical about the non-white people of the world.

If it is a film to be had and if there is any way to get those "pesky" non-white people to just take a seat in the background and "Shut up!", then I am sure Hollywood will find a way to do it.

Co-opting, plagiarizing and white-washing POC's history is the order of the day in Hollywood.

Those Great White Bwanas!

What on Earth would we do without them!???!!

8/02/2006 04:35:00 PM  
Anonymous gatamala said...

I like that Ann, Mississippi Burning Syndrome!

When I read the Rape of Nanking, I had to stop and put the book down b/c it was painful to take in. It takes a lot to break my heart & this book was it.

I've waited for years for someone to acknowledge Nanking and this book. The time comes and THIS is what we get.

Ms. Chang committed suicide. No one will ever understand the source of her despair, though I do suspect her insight into such cruelty and apathy has something to do with it.

The Chinese & Iris Chang deserve more than this.

8/03/2006 04:25:00 PM  

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