Nanking is history in intimate form. In broad outline, the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s and the events that came to be known as “the rape of Nanking” are perhaps familiar. The details are harrowing—more than 200,000 Chinese citizens killed, more than 20,000 rapes of women and children, atrocities of every kind, a city destroyed. What is often overlooked in general accounts is the personal involvement of individuals. The central feature of this documentary is the use of accounts recorded by a group of westerners living in Nanking at the time of the invasion. These missionaries, doctors and merchants did what they could to protect Chinese occupants of the city. They created a safety zone to shelter as many as possible. The central device of the documentary presents actors reading from first person accounts. What could have been a distraction works as a powerful magnet, drawing viewers in to witness archival footage in a new way. We learn that the authors survived Nanking, but at least one took her own life soon after returning to America. Such are the atrocities that extend beyond immediate warfare. For reminding viewers of an event too often forgotten and for doing so in an innovative manner, Nanking receives a Peabody Award.
Producers: Bill Guttentag, Michael Jacobs, Ted Leonsis. Directors: Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman. Writers: Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman, Elisabeth Bentley.