A poster of "Twenty Two" displayed outside a theater in Beijing holding an advanced screening, on July 7, 2017.
The first documentary film on the subject of Chinese victims of Japanese wartime sex slavery has been approved by the Chinese authorities and will hit local theaters in August.
"Twenty Two," directed by Guo Ke, records the daily life of 22 surviving sex slavery victims and their memories of what happened in World War II. The director said at a special screening in Beijing on July 7 that he hoped more people would come to understand the dark history behind Japan's "comfort women" (military prostitution).
The film encountered a series of difficulties during production, including the withdrawal of investors. Chinese actress Zhang Xinyi personally provided 1 million yuan to help finish the project.
The producers organized advanced screenings in 38 cities in China for audiences totaling some 30,000 people, including those who helped fund and promote the project. The director said without their help, the documentary film would not have been possible.
The film has much footage of the normal life of the sex slavery victims, the director noting that he wanted to present their real lives, rather than editing to make it inflammatory.
By June 2017, 13 of 22 sex slavery victims in the film have passed away, so that only nine remain. "I don't want to tell you through this film about what relationship China and Japan should have," Guo said, "I just want you to know them, to know the real history. Thinking of them as your own family members, you will understand why the film is made like this."
The longstanding disputes between Japan and neighboring China and South Korea over the "comfort women" issue have largely hindered development of ties and the issue has become a touchstone of how Japan is facing up to its wartime history.
A leaflet handed to audiences by the organizers of the film screening reads "From 1932 to 1945, at least 200,000 Chinese women were forced to become comfort women."
"We face the pain, " the leaflet continued, "and we remember."
Numerous historical materials prove the suffering of sex slaves at the hands of the Japanese military more than 70 years ago, including a series of videos and documents released in August by China's State Archives Administration, serving as new evidence of the outrageous crimes. Experts from China and the South Korea revealed a list of 210 "comfort women" from the Second World War in early July 2017. The South Korean government also wants to build a museum in memory of wartime sex slavery victims in the future.
Chinese and South Korean victims have been demanding a sincere apology, repentance and compensation from the Japanese government. However, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has yet to sincerely apologize for the wartime crimes.
"Twenty Two" will be widely released in China on Aug. 14, earmarked as an international memorial day for the wartime sex slaves.