City of Life and Death is the name of a movie by Chinese director Lu Chuan which depicts the story of the Japanese massacre of the city of Nanjing. 70 years ago as Japanese Imperial troops occupied China, they massacred tens of thousands of men, women and children. The film depicts the reality of what happened to Nanjing under Japanese occupation, it shows scenes of rape, murder and cruelty. In an interview with the BBC, the director said he had wanted to make a movie that represented the truth of what went on in Nanjing. Lu Chuan said that it was his goal to show people why the Chinese sill have a tremendous amount of animosity towards the Japanese. This also comes at a time when the relations between the two countries is not very good.
During the film they show “both sides of the story”. In it is the tale of a Japanese soldier who eventually commits suicide. He said he also wants other Chinese to see that the Japanese are not monsters, but that they are people just like them. The film has generated a lot of angry denunciations from people in China. Many in China see this as an insult to those who died, attempting to drum up sympathy for the perpetrators. The subject of the Nanjing massacre is still a touchy subject. Especially in Nanjing itself.
Angry denunciations have come out about the film in the West too. Many on the right wing are claiming its “communist propaganda”. A hollow claim coming from people who think the fictional work “Red Dawn” is academy award winning material. It is a true story of a crime against humanity that was committed by the Japanese Empire.
The problems did not stop there. While the film was being made, there were reports of altercations between Japanese and Chinese actors. There are also a report of a fight between actors. During a scene in which Japanese soldiers were dancing to the beat of a drum, which had drummers brought in from Japan, got angry from noise around him and hit a Chinese actor.
As angry sentiment around the film began to rise, Christian Bale who stars in the movie publicly defend his role in it. He said that the movie was far more a movie about human beings and the nature of human beings’ responses to crisis”. He said it was a historical piece, and anyone describing it as propaganda was not looking at it closely enough.
According to the director, and many of his compatriots, the Japanese have not yet properly apologized for their wartime aggression – including the Rape of Nanjing.