The Pacific War – Versions of Events

Differing historical versions of Sino-Japanese history were discussed at a film symposium, History, Trauma and Memory, this month, a collaboration between the Department of Comparative Literature, the School of Chinese, and the JMSC.

Documentary maker and Visiting Associate Professor at the JMSC, Nancy Tong, screened her prize winning documentary, In the Name of the Emperor, which looks at the ‘Rape of Nanking’ in 1937, in which Japanese soldiers ransacked the occupied city, raping and massacring civilians.

Chinese film maker, Li Ying, the Executive Producer and Director of another award winning documentary, Yasakuni, screened his film about visits to the eponymous shrine by Japanese politicians. The Yakashuni shrine has caused controversy because, as well as war heroes, it also commemorates Japanese soldiers convicted of committing war crimes in China and elsewhere during the Second World War.

Nancy Tong was especially interested in how China and Japan differ on their memory of events; both films shown reflect the countries’ contrasting historical perspectives.

“The two films are very different in style. Li Ying’s film is a purely observational film, whereas mine is more of an overview of one event. “

The two films were used as a launch pad for an open discussion among the three hundred strong audience. Humanities scholars Dr. Song Gang and Dr. Wang Aike from the School of Chinese, and Dr. Esther Yau from the Department of Comparative Literature, joined the two documentary makers to discuss post-atrocity memories, Nanking, and the power of documentary film.