Nanking (2007 film)

Nanking (Chinese: 南京) is a 2007 documentary film about the Nanking Massacre, committed in 1937 by the Japanese army in the former capital city Nanjing, China. It was inspired by Iris Chang's book The Rape of Nanking (1997), which discussed the persecution and murder of the Chinese by the Imperial Japanese Army in the then-capital of Nanjing at the outset of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45). The film draws on letters and diaries from the era as well as archive footage and interviews with surviving victims and perpetrators of the massacre. Contemporary actors play the roles of the Western missionaries, professors, and businessmen who formed the Nanking Safety Zone to protect the city's civilians from Japanese forces. Particular attention is paid to Nazi Party member John Rabe, a German businessman who organized the Nanking Safety Zone, Robert O. Wilson, a surgeon who remained in Nanking to care for legions of victims, and Minnie Vautrin, a missionary educator who rendered aid to thousands of Nanking's women.

Nanking movie poster1.jpg
Nanking film poster
Directed byBill Guttentag
Dan Sturman
Produced byTed Leonsis
Bill Guttentag
Michael Jacobs
Written byBill Guttentag
Dan Sturman
Elisabeth Bentley
StarringRosalind Chao
Stephen Dorff
John Getz
Woody Harrelson
Mariel Hemingway
Michelle Krusiec
Jürgen Prochnow
Sonny Saito
Graham Sibley
Robert Wu
Music byPhilip Marshall
CinematographyStephen Kazmierski
Buddy Squires
Edited byHibah Sherif Frisina
Charlton McMillan
Michael Schweitzer
Distributed byFortissimo Films (world)
THINKFilm (U.S.)
CCTV (China)
Release date
  • January 20, 2007 (2007-01-20) (Sundance)
  • July 3, 2007 (2007-07-03) (China)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Mandarin (Nanjing dialect)


In the winter of 1937, the Japanese army occupied Nanking and killed over 300,000 and raped tens of thousands of Chinese people, one of human history's worst atrocities. In order to protect Chinese civilians, a small group of European and American expatriates, Western missionaries, professors, and businessmen banded together to save 250,000, risking their own lives.

The film describes the Nanking Massacre by reading from letters and diaries which shows the activities of John Rabe (Jürgen Prochnow), a German businessman, Robert O. Wilson (Woody Harrelson), the only surgeon remaining to care for legions of victims, and Minnie Vautrin (Mariel Hemingway), an educator who passionately defends the lives and honor of Nanking's women during the war time.

The film includes survivors who tell their own stories, the archival footage of the events, and the testimonies of Japanese soldiers who participated in the rampage.

Voice actorsEdit


The film was conceptualized and funded by AOL Vice-Chairman Ted Leonsis. While on vacation during the Christmas of 2005 in St. Bart's, Leonsis read The Rape of Nanking after seeing the obituary for the book's author, Iris Chang. The book inspired Leonsis to research the massacre further and eventually led to his creation of the film project.

Leonsis had expressed his desire for the film to be released theatrically, as well as on DVD, television, and cable. He hopes to use local DVD sales as an advertising platform for businesses that want to break into the Chinese market.[1] He also expressed interest in making the film available for free online, saying "We'll get a sponsor", "I'm not worried about piracy. I want people to share the movie."[2]

Release and reactionEdit

Ted Leonsis at the 68th Annual Peabody Awards for Nanking

Nanking has received numerous positive reviews, including one from Reuters that says that the "beautifully crafted film...honors the highest calling of documentary filmmaking." It was accepted to the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2007 and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize (Documentary); the film was awarded honors for Documentary Editing.[3] In 2008, this documentary was awarded the Peabody Award.[4] Japanese right-wing nationalist[5] filmmaker Satoru Mizushima called the film a "setup by China to control intelligence," and plans to release his own documentary, The Truth about Nanjing, in which the massacre is portrayed as merely political propaganda.[6] On his blog, Nanking producer Ted Leonsis responded by saying: "Our film isn't an anti-Japanese film. It is an anti-war film."[7]

In July 2007, the film premiered in Beijing and opened in China.[8]

On November 19, 2007, Nanking was named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of 15 films on its documentary feature Oscar shortlist.[9] It was not retained when the list was narrowed to the final five nominations.[10] Guttentag, Sturman, and Bentley received a nomination for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Documentary Screenplay.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Heath, Thomas (2006-07-31). "Ted Leonsis Takes a Sharp Turn". Washington post. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  2. ^ Thompson, Anne (2007-01-22). "Leonsis newest 'filmanthropist' at Sundance". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  3. ^ "2007 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES JURY AND AUDIENCE AWARDS" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-02-26. Retrieved 2007-01-28.
  4. ^ 68th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2009.
  5. ^ "Archived copy" 日本右翼拍《南京真相》欲盖弥彰 不得人心 (in Chinese). Xinhua News Agency. 2007-02-01. Archived from the original on 2011-12-25. Retrieved 2012-04-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Hongo, Jun (2007-01-25). "Filmmaker to paint Nanjing slaughter as just myth". The Japan Times.
  7. ^ Leonsis, Ted (2007-01-25). "An Anti-War Film".
  8. ^ "Beijing launch for massacre film". BBC News. 2007-07-04. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
  9. ^ "Shortlist for docu Oscar unveiled". The Hollywood Reporter. 2007-11-20. Archived from the original on 2008-05-02. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
  10. ^ Nominees and winners - 80th Academy Awards
  11. ^ Thielman, Sam; McNary, Dave (9 February 2008). "Cody, Coens bros. top WGA Awards". Variety. Retrieved 20 February 2019.

External linksEdit