International Seminar on WWII Documentary Under Bayonets and Barbed Wire Held in Beijing

By Chen Rui, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing, China

In the afternoon of September 28, 2015, studio No.2 of China Film Group (CFG) was crowded with people from diverse background. Professionals from the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the CPC, Chinese Federation of Literacy and Art Circles (CFLAC), China Literary Criticism Center, State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of PRC(SARFT),People’s Daily Press, CCTV, China Film Association, Xinhua News Agency,, CNR, ifeng,, China Research Center for International Economic Development, China Business Journal, China Biographical Literature Association and Central University of Finance and Economics etc., as well as friends from France, the United States, Singapore, Britain, Indian and Spain gathered together to watch , a US-China co-produced film. The film play was followed by a heated discussion on the social implication, shooting and expression technique of the film. Last night, No.2 studio of CFG was fortunate enough to have witnessed a clash of values and insights between the east and the west.

The director from the Chinese side, Shen Haofang, has in his career directed films such as The Happy Life of Talkative Zhang Damin and Ren Changxia. Richard Anderson, the American director, is known for his involvement in the Indiana Jones series, Predator,Lion King, etc.
The film started with introduction of the Mukden POW camp that was established in Shenyang 70 years ago. It developed in a documentary style and told the story of the prisoners from the allied forces during the Second World War. In order to create a unique landscape of the Second World War, to make more understandable the relations between the Oriental Main Battlefield and the worldwide anti Fascist War and to reveal the untold stories to the audience, directors interviewed a number of witnesses of the War and have combined oral history with historical records. With the demonstration of these precious historical records and the interview of the witnesses as the skeleton of the film, two directors have managed to explain the strategic consideration of the Japanese armies behind its decision to move those prisoners from Southeast Asia to Northeast China during the War. Richard Anderson himself appeared in the scene to interview several American veterans who once lived in the Mukden POW camp. The film adopted a humanitarian perspective to reconstruct what has happened to these witnesses. Such manifestation will become precious one-hand historical records that will contribute to shared historical memories across nations and countries, reminding people of the hard-fought battle for peace.

The fact that the film is co-produced by directors from China and US is itself a manifestation of the cross-cultural and diversified perspectives on the history of the Second World War. With the American prisoners in the Far East battlefield as a unique cutting point, directors have attempted to be creative in production technique by combining fragments of the Oriental Battlefield with the general picture of the Second World War. Richard Anderson has been studying the history of Mukden POW camp for a considerable amount of time and it was on his agenda to produce such a documentary and to promote it in the United States. Therefore, his involvement has made the film more of a clash of diversified perspectives and opinions based on mutual respect for historical facts than a mere cooperation in the production of art. Such collaboration and clashes have endowed the film with a broader perspective, a more fact-respecting story and the possibility of greater global influence.

Gao Wei, research fellow at Center for China and Globalization (CCG), tutor at Alliance for Global Youth Leadership (GYL)and PhD from Tsinghua University, has initiated the seminar. He introduced that the seminar was held in the hope that the intelligentsia elites with global view and strong sense of social responsibility could gather together and to provide film and art producers with insightful suggestion. Such form of discussion may contribute to the development of the soft power of China as it invites diversified perspectives on how a better Chinese story can be told.

The guests for the seminar have been attentively selected by the organizers. Background, research fields of these guests as well as the structure of the guests as a whole was taken into consideration. Most of the guests invited have once lived and received education abroad. The participation of foreign guests has been an additional asset as they contributed quite a lot of fresh opinion.

This film review seminar has gone beyond a discussion on the art of the film. It was more of a seminar on how China can promote its film to the world. Fruitful outcomes have been achieved as guests offered insights on how Chinese film makers could optimize the technique of expression, how Chinese stories could be told worldwide in a more welcome manner and how China’s image and spirit can be spread around the world.