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Japanese director announces production of Nanjing film to deny massacre


TOKYO — When Japan­ese troops con­quered the then-cap­i­tal of Chi­na in 1937, his­to­ri­ans agree they slaugh­tered tens of thou­sands of civil­ians in an orgy of vio­lence known since then as the Rape of Nanking.

A Japan­ese nation­al­ist film­mak­er announced on Wednes­day he is work­ing on a doc­u­men­tary with a very dif­fer­ent mes­sage: the mas­sacre nev­er hap­pened.

The film, to be called “The Truth about Nanking” and com­plet­ed in August, will be based on tes­ti­mo­ny from Japan­ese vet­er­ans, archival footage and doc­u­ments that pro­po­nents say prove accounts of the killing are noth­ing more than Chi­nese pro­pa­gan­da.

“This will be our first effort to cor­rect the errors of his­to­ry through a film,” direc­tor Satoru Mizushi­ma said at a Tokyo hotel, joined by a group of con­ser­v­a­tive law­mak­ers and aca­d­e­mics who sup­port the project.

Mizushi­ma, pres­i­dent of a rightwing Inter­net broad­cast­er “Chan­nel Saku­ra,” said he hoped to enter the film in inter­na­tion­al fes­ti­vals late in the year. He is aim­ing to raise about 300 mil­lion yen (US$2.47 mil­lion; €1.89 mil­lion) for the effort.

The film is part of a gath­er­ing wave in Japan of “mas­sacre denial” projects, most­ly books, that attempt to debunk a slaugh­ter that his­to­ri­ans say killed at least 150,000 civil­ians. Chi­na says the death toll was as many as 300,000.

The film was cer­tain to rile audi­ences in Chi­na, and oppo­nents say it would only cause embar­rass­ment for Japan.

“They say the film will trans­mit the truth about Nanking, but they will be only spread­ing shame for Japan,” said Shinichi­ro Kuma­gai, a civ­il activist study­ing the mas­sacre in Nan­jing — the cur­rent name of the city — and sup­port­ing Chi­nese war vic­tims.

“The move only reveals their inabil­i­ty to face Japan’s wartime past by look­ing the oth­er way,” Kuma­gai said.

The film is based on the work of Japan­ese his­to­ri­an Shu­do Higashinakano, whose work includ­ed two books in the late 1990s claim­ing the mas­sacre was a hoax.

A Chi­nese court last year award­ed a Nan­jing Mas­sacre sur­vivor 1.6 mil­lion yuan (US$200,000; €156,100) in com­pen­sa­tion after rul­ing against Higashinakano and anoth­er his­to­ri­an for claim­ing she fab­ri­cat­ed her account of the atroc­i­ty.

The mas­sacre, brought to a world­wide audi­ence in Eng­lish by Iris Chang’s book, “The Rape of Nanking: The For­got­ten Holo­caust of World War II,” is wide­ly seen as a grue­some sym­bol of Japan’s bloody con­quest of East Asia in most of the first half of the 1900s.

The mas­sacre is a cause cele­bre of Japan’s increas­ing­ly active nation­al­ist groups, which are push­ing to cull ref­er­ences to it in pub­lic school text­books and dis­cred­it accounts of the slaugh­ter.

Japan’s right­ists argue Nanking’s pop­u­la­tion was too small to have suf­fered such a huge mas­sacre, and they claim doc­tored pho­tographs and exag­ger­at­ed wit­ness accounts have cre­at­ed the false image of Japan­ese sol­diers as craven and blood­thirsty.

Wednes­day’s announce­ment coin­cides with this week’s show­ing of doc­u­men­tary “Nanking,” a study of the bru­tal Japan­ese occu­pa­tion of the city, at Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val in Utah.

Mizushi­ma said his project was aimed at coun­ter­ing that film, among oth­ers planned this year mark­ing the 70th anniver­sary of the dis­graced past.

“Keep­ing silence to a film like this would allow anti-Japan pro­pa­gan­da to spread around the world as uni­ver­sal knowl­edge,” he said, adding that such works con­tribute to anti-Japan­ese sen­ti­ment by por­tray­ing his coun­try­men as “bru­tal bar­bar­ians.”


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