Monday, July 23, 2012

30. Iris Chang: Rape of Nanking (2007) *

The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

Why did it need a child of the community to write this story? And second, why had it disappeared from history?

The documentary focuses on the life of Iris Chang (1968-2004) a Chinese American writer and journalist.  In 1997 she published 'The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II' the first non-fiction account of the massacre in the English language.  Through interviews with her friends, family and survivors in Nanking, the documentary pieces together Chang's journey in researching and writing the book before her suicide.  

Co-directed by Bill Spahic and Anne Pick, written by Michael Betcherman, the film aims to cast light upon the often forgotten atrocities perpetrated during World War II against the Chinese and Asians by the Japanese. For example, Chang details the rapes of between 20,000 to 80,000 girls and women by the Japanese soldiers.  The survivors give devastating accounts of the brutality of the massacre.  They remain in Nanking deeply affected by the personal and societal tragedy they survived.  

The films intersects the testimonies of Chang, her family and survivors with fictionalised depictions of her breakdown before her suicide.  The film shows Chang's 'vicarious traumatization' (to use the words of the psychiatrist Hoffman) in researching the Nanking massacre.  Although the documentary is interesting it has some shortcomings.  Chang had strong ties with her community and this is lacking from the Canadian film.  The choice of music in the film is poor.  Intelligent editing (it could be much shorter) and greater focus on the words of the survivors would have made for a much better documentary.  More information on the film can be found on the official film website here.

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