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War documentary shines light on horrifying, under-told story

Directors: Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman
Writers: Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman, Elisabeth Bentley
Cinematographer: Buddy Squires
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Mariel Hemingway, John Getz, Jürgen Prochnow
Studio/Run Time: THINKFilm, 88 mins.

Despite The Ken Burns Effect on WWII, the story of what occurred in China’s then-capital city of Nanking won’t be familiar to most Westerners,

in that it took place during the winter of 1937, two years before the invasion of Poland and four years before Pearl Harbor brought the war home. By the late ’30s though, Japan—in alliance with Nazi Germany—was already on its megalomaniac march, invading and toppling Shanghai before turning its bloodlust toward Nanking. This documentary (featuring Stephen Dorff, Mariel Hemingway and Woody Harrelson reading old letters and diaries) details how an all-out slaughter of the country’s poorest was averted by an unlikely alliance of Christian missionaries and Nazi businessmen, who set up a neutral zone to stem the bloodshed and protect the innocent. Nanking chillingly captures the ultimate futility of this effort (200,000 were murdered, in addition to some 20,000 reported rapes in the first month alone) with recent interviews and rare 16mm footage that won’t soon be forgotten.