Nanjing: Memory and Oblivion

Directed by Michael Prazan

53 minutes / Color
French / English subtitles
Release: 2007
Copyright: 2006

Although the Nanjing Massacre, a series of war crimes committed by Japanese troops in China's capital during the second Sino-Japanese War, occurred seventy years ago, the nature and extent of these atrocities remains the subject of continuing historical debate and the source of political tensions between China and Japan.

During the military occupation, Japanese troops engaged in arson, rape, looting and executions of prisoners of war and civilians, including women and children. Debate continues to rage over the extent of the atrocities and the number of deaths, with some Japanese denying any atrocities took place, but credible estimates of non-combatant deaths range from 100,000 to 300,000.

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NANJING: MEMORY AND OBLIVION uses archival footage and photos, interviews with Chinese survivors and eyewitnesses, former Japanese soldiers, and both Chinese and Japanese government officials, historians and lawyers, to document the events of "The Rape of Nanking" and to show how the interpretation of this history has become politicized.

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In addition to shocking accounts of atrocities witnessed and committed, the film profiles those foreigners residing in Nanjing, known as "the righteous," including John Rabe, Minnie Vautrin and John Magee, whose efforts saved many lives. Although featuring contentious commentary by both Japanese and Chinese advocates for both sides of the continuing controversy, NANJING also shows a Chinese and a Japanese history teacher who, unlike their government leaders, are working to construct a shared memory of the events.

"A remarkable documentary… retraces with precision the unfolding of events… gives a frightening example of the manipulation of history."—Télérama

"Chinese survivors and Japanese soldiers, with sincerity, sadness or profound disturbance, recount the horrors of the bloody events… a valuable testimony."—ProChoix

"This engrossing film reconstructs the facts of the atrocities committed in Nanking. By shedding light on this disputed event, one which has divided the neighboring countries and left inhabitants full of pain and resentment, filmmaker Michael Prazan hopes to absorb this lapse in collective memory and bring the people of China and Japan closer together."—Chicago International Documentary Festival Program

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Select Accolades

  • 2007 Chicago International Documentary Festival
  • 2006 International Festival of Audiovisual Programs


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