A documentary about 22 Chinese “comfort women” survivors, titled Twenty Two, was lauded by celebrities and the Chinese public as the film opened on Monday, the International Memorial Day for Comfort Women.
According to data from Maoyan, a Chinese online film database, Twenty Two grossed 3.51 million yuan ($524,000) at the box office on Monday from only 3,844 screens – 1.5 percent of the total across the country – on its first day of release. It ranked as the seventh-most popular film (Wolf Warrior 2 still tops the list). But attendance at the documentary was 28.1 percent, much higher than for other movies showing on Monday.
Guo Ke, 37, director of Twenty Two, told the Global Times “I have no expectations for the final box office. For this kind of documentary, losing money is normal, but if I can turn in a profit, I’ll donate the money to ‘comfort women’ survivors.”
Many Net users wrote on Weibo and WeChat that they would like to support the documentary but because they feel the subject matter is too heavy and sad, and they don’t want to feel bad, they decided to buy tickets but not watch it to make a donation to show respect.
“I thank these Net users and I understand them but I still recommend they watch it or at least read something to learn about the history of ‘comfort women.’ Our documentary will deliver optimism and warmth to audiences, rather than pain and sadness,” Guo said.
Of the 22 survivors filmed in the movie, only eight are still alive, and currently there are only 14 “comfort women” survivors in the Chinese mainland, Guo said.
Some Net users questioned the director, saying that it was better not to disturb the scars of these now elderly victims, and it was better to give them privacy, as history could be learned in other ways.
“I understand their concerns, but it seems they didn’t watch the documentary. We didn’t ask questions about their painful past during the filming. We just filmed their current situation and their optimistic and generous attitude to their lives at this moment, and you can’t see anything from the past from the documentary,” Guo said.
Many influential mainstream media in China, including the People’s Daily, China Central Television (CCTV) and the Xinhua News Agency showed their support for the documentary via commentaries and interviews with the producer.
Famed director Feng Xiaogang recommended the documentary on his Weibo account saying that “Guo came to ask help from me four years ago, and I have always supported him but I didn’t tell the public that I am a sponsor.” He added that because the documentary wasn’t going to be released on many screens, he wanted to bring attention to it.
Chinese actress Zhang Xinyi also said on her Weibo account that she hopes more people will watch the documentary. Guo added that Zhang had given him 1 million yuan to film the documentary, he said.
Sadly, one “comfort woman” survivor, Huang Youliang, passed away on Saturday at the age of 90, two days before the release of the documentary. Huang was also an activist for the rights of “comfort women” survivors. In 2001, she went to Tokyo to sue the Japanese government for her wartime rape and sexual enslavement and appeared in court as a witness, CCTV reported.
Although the Japanese court acknowledged that the “comfort women” survivors, including Huang, were kidnapped and forced to work as sex slaves by the Japanese military during World War II, it ruled that individuals had no right to sue the state so their right to pursue compensation had expired, thepaper.com reported.
“Although these survivors, living evidence of the war crimes of the Japanese Empire, will gradually pass away in the near future, the memory of the ‘comfort women’ will be reinforced in the country and the international community, so whether Japanese politicians and right-wingers admit it or not, they can never cover-up the truth,” said Lü Yaodong, director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“We hope Japan can understand that an apology is not something that can be exchanged or used as a bargaining chip between governments. If it can’t win forgiveness from the victims and the people from the countries which Japan invaded, it will never become a normal country,” Lü said.
Source: Global Times