A Chinese director has released a new film -- to critical acclaim in China -- which he claims will redress misrepresentations of Japanese war crimes during World War II.
Tokyo Trial recounts the court proceedings against 28 top Japanese war criminals at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East after the war.
Director Gao Qunshu claimed it accurately portrays how a Chinese judge swayed opinion on the international panel of 11 judges to narrowly avert a "miscarriage of justice".
The judges -- from China, the United States, Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and the Philippines -- ended more than two years of proceedings with a close division over sentencing.
However, Chinese judge Mei Ru'ao gave the last speech charging the criminals with stealing Chinese resources and crimes against humanity, securing a majority of six for death penalties for the seven class A war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, Kenji Doihara and Koki Hirota.
"The film reviews the war as well as those responsible. The Chinese judges averted a shameful miscarriage of justice," Gao said.
"I aim to tell the incontrovertible truth of history," he added.
Tokyo Trial comes 23 years after the making of Tokyo Saiban by Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi, which was criticized for misrepresenting history.
In a 1985 review of the Japanese version, New York Times film critic Drew Middleton wrote: "(The movie) is visually satisfying, but historically empty. Masaki Kobayashi, the director, himself a prisoner of war, has interspersed the trial scenes with bits from World War II archives that, granted the importance of the trial itself, seem largely irrelevant.
"Moreover we get little about Japanese atrocities such as the Bataan death march or the Nanjing massacres after the Japanese Army took that city in its campaign against China. We do get the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The message, to this reviewer, was that the West was worse than the East in terms of atrocities."
It's an opinion shared by septuagenarian Chinese director Xie Jin. "The movie totally confounded right and wrong."
However, Xie, who was honored last year with a lifetime achievement Golden Rooster in the country's premier film awards, said Tokyo Trial was the first film he had paid to watch in more than a decade.
"It's praiseworthy for the true representation of history. I hope both Chinese and Japanese audiences can watch it, because too many young people don't know this period of history," he said.
A poll published by Asahi Shimbun newspaper on May 2 showed 70 percent of Japanese respondents did not know of the content of the Tokyo Trial, and 17 percent had never even heard of the trial. Ten percent of respondents aged 20 to 30 knew of the trial's content.
"It's a pity that a film representing the true history of the Tokyo Trial appeared 60 years after the establishment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, while its counterpart on the Nuremberg Trial, Judgment at Nuremberg (directed by Stanley Kramer) was finished in 1961," said Ling Yan, a Chinese jurist with The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and professor of the China University of Political Science and Law.
The history of the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews during World War II was widely known and agreed thanks to the Jewish people maintaining awareness. The Chinese people should also learn to prevent others denying history, said Lin Xiaoguang, a researcher with the Party History Research Center of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee.
"History education in school, though highly regarded by the government and society, is not enough. We must make full use of mass media to let more people know the history," he added.
Veteran female director Huang Shuqin complimented the balance of historical seriousness and personal passion in Tokyo Trial. "The movie shows history peacefully without a personal viewpoint, and it stirs the audience."
The movie evoked patriotism and a pursuit of peace, instead of stirring hatred between China and Japan, said Mao Shi'an, a movie critic in Shanghai.
Japan has fallen foul of public and official feeling in many Asian countries, including China and the Republic of Korea, since World War II, as many people think Tokyo has never properly apologized and atoned for its offenses.
The small-budget film boasts a star-studded cast. Hong Kong veteran Kenneth Tsang plays a Chinese prosecutor and Damian Lau a judge. Taiwan starlet Kelly Lin plays a Japanese girl who falls in love with a Chinese journalist, played by Taiwan heartthrob Ken Zhu.
American and Japanese actors also have a part in the film, including Broadway actor John Henry Cox who acted as the chief prosecutor.
"Cox was unaware of the history at the beginning, but after learning of the Japanese war crimes, he gave a strong emotional performance," Gao said. "I was worried about the Japanese actors at the beginning, but they were quite responsible and cooperative."
Gao said he expected the film's box office to reach 50 million yuan (US$6.25 million).
(Xinhua News Agency September 3, 2006)