Documentary on lives of WWII ‘sex slaves’ creates sensation across China
 
On a light blue and green wall, a teenage girl is drawing a picture with a chalk. Above the picture there are two letters - Twenty Two. This is the poster of a recent Chinese documentary presenting the current lives of 22 grannies who had been forced into sex slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. Asked who the girl is, director Guo Ke said while there is no original figure in reality, the girl symbolizes all those grannies who wish their life could go back in time prior to Japanese soldiers’ intrusion. 
 
The documentary, which made its debut on August 14, has created a sensation across China, especially among young generation who has gotten knowledge of that period of Chinese history. 
 
The film documents a total of 22 women at the time when it started shooting in 2014, among which 14 have passed away since then. Across the Chinese mainland, only 14 “comfort women” are still alive, according to the Research Center for Comfort Women at Shanghai Normal University.
 
Some 400,000 women across Asia were forced to be “comfort women” for the Japanese army during WWII, and nearly half of them were Chinese, according to the Research Center for Comfort Women.
 
Su Zhiliang, director of the center, said besides repeated sexual assaults, they were also forced to undertake manual labor.
 
Things that had been done to those grannies were some of the worst crimes committed by the Japanese military, Su said, "It was heinous and such crimes were rarely seen in human history." 
 
However, even after 70 years, the grannies still have not received a word of apology from the Japanese government for the massive violation of human rights.
 
In July 2001, 24 Chinese “comfort women” sued Japan, demanding a formal apology and compensation of 24 million yen (then $212,000), but the court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have the right to sue.
 
The director, 36-year-old Guo Ke, has previously shot another documentary named Twenty Three in 2012 featuring 32 grannies, but it is reported that Twenty Two is the first Chinese documentary about “comfort women” being screened in Chinese cinemas. 
 
Rather than focusing on their wartime experiences, the film documents the survivors’ daily lives in their later years.
 
“It is inappropriate to treat this topic in a sensational way,” Guo said in an interview with Chinese media. “The last gaze at this group of people must be gentle.”
 
Widespread public attention to wartime sex slaves in China and other parts of the world has helped Guo make TwentyTwo. Though he initially struggled to finance the operation, crowdfunding generated 1 million yuan ($150,000). The film’s closing credits name around 7,000 people who contributed to the fund.
 
According to EntGroup, a market research firm for the entertainment industry, the film’s box office takings on its first day reached 3 million yuan, a sum that Guo said surpassed his expectations. Guo said that he will donate all profits of the movie to studies on “comfort women” and aid for survivors and other disadvantaged groups.
 
“Director Guo Ke and his team have just done a great thing. Everyone should go to cinema and watch this movie,” one viewer said on WeChat. 
 
“There are three reasons one should watch the documentary in the cinema - one is that it appears to be the first time that almost all movie goers are young people, the atmosphere throughout the move in the cinema was extremely quiet and no one left until the last minute; second, although the subject is serious and heavy, the documentary itself is not trying to show how cruel the war was. Instead, the director has been really restrained in shooting and presenting the grannies’ current lives while letting the audience feel the emotion of their stories. Thirdly, it reminds us that history should never be forgotten,” another viewer commented on WeChat. 
 
 
 
 

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