Institute History


The difficulty in depicting tragic events of the past, even ones as renowned as the "rape of Nanking" (although it is perhaps now fading into obscurity), is to find a way to make it real beyond reciting statistics. This is the accomplishment of Nanking, a film whose vibrant, searing impact is a tribute to the passion and ingenuity of its creators.

In the winter of 1937, an invading Japanese army entered the Chinese city of Nanking and proceeded to obliterate the helpless population. Two hundred thousand were killed, and tens of thousands of Chinese women were raped. In the midst of this mayhem, a small group of expatriate Westerners—missionaries, businessmen, college professors, and doctors—attempted to create an oasis of safety to protect the citizens they could. It is through their eyes, by means of letters, diaries, and other reports of the destruction, that filmmakers Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman reveal the events of that terrible time.

Utilizing actors to read these accounts, including Jürgen Prochnow, Woody Harrelson, and Mariel Hemingway, and interwoven with chilling archival footage, testimony, and interviews with both survivors and perpetrators, Nanking exposes the all-too-familiar horrors of war but also affirms the extraordinary impact that individuals can make. This is a gripping and soul-searching chronicle of a calamity and a tribute to the people who tried to make it better.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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