The Asian film industry will be closely following the reaction to one film in particular at TIFF this year. Nanjing Nanjing (English title: City of Life and Death) graphically depicts the horrific devastation of Nanjing by Japanese forces in late 1937 to early 1938. The film deals with the mass murder and rape in epic proportions, somberly, without gratuitously showing more gore than necessary, yet also not shying away from the atrocities. Shot to perfection in black and white, it is widely seen as China's likely submission for an Oscar for best foreign-language film.
Of course, the film hasn't avoided controversy. It was a box-office success in its Chinese release earlier this year, after having passed official censors. Yet a campaign criticizing the portrayal of some of the Japanese soldiers in more human terms, especially the central Japanese lead, has erupted on the Internet, said TIFF programmer Giovanna Fulvi. Arguably, though, the humanness of the Japanese soldiers in the film makes the atrocities committed that much more sickening and immediate.
What's of particular interest now is how Western audiences will react. The theatre was packed for its first press and industry screening Thursday evening at the festival. It was a mature crowd. At the end, there was a round of applause, which is usually far less common than at the festival's public screenings. It's unlikely a film anyone attending that night will forget.
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