Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre (1995)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2008-01-06
Summary: Difficult to watch but quite powerful...
Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre is Mau Dui-Fai's (notorious for his "Men Behind the Sun" shock-fest) telling of the infamous events that took place in late 1937 within the city of Nanking, China. The story unfolds as the Japanese army has occupied the city and has started to commit atrocities that rival any during modern history. Soldiers have free reign of the city and murder and rape who they please, while their commanders sanction the events with flimsy reasoning and excuses. There are a few foreigners who come to the aid of Nanking's citizens, including a German Nazi named John Rabe and an American missionary named Minnie Vautrin. The Japanese begrudgingly ignore those who come under the protection of these two, but there are scattered incidents of rape and murder even within the designated international safe zone. The film follows various characters, including a Chinese family whose parents are brutally killed but whose children, uncle and grandmother escape. The uncle hides the children away in a bombed out building while he searches the city for food and help, revealing to the viewer the atrocities being committed. Other characters followed are the Japanese generals, who are more intent on getting credit for the swift occupation and building their division's body count than paying attention to "rules of engagement." There are few in the Japanese occupiers that have sympathy for the innocent citizens that are being brutalized, but their concerns are quickly drowned out and stifled by those in power. Lastly, a citizen who speaks Japanese and his young grandson's stories are told, but sadly, their fate is as predictable as others during this time. The films ends with the parentless youth of Nanking, already having seen more death and violence than anyone can imagine, wandering in the darkened streets, trying to avoid their own death at the hands of the Japanese soldiers.

Black Sun is a very difficult film to watch, made even more so by the realization that death can come at any time for the Nanking citizens in the film, and often does. There are no characters that are spared from the atrocities, no matter how innocent or important their roles seem. It lends to the sense of unease during the entire movie, and the director Mau does not spare any viewer the horror of the acts committed. Many of the scenes depicted are from historical accounts and eye-witnesses to the Rape of Nanking. Interspersed throughout the film are actual video and still pictures from the city at the time, which lends to the sickening realization that all of this and much much worse actually occurred. As one would expect, there is a fair amount of gore shown, but the acts themselves, not the blood shown, are what is really disturbing. The amount of people killed, by some estimates as much as 300,000, is truly staggering and begs for more accounts and acknowledgment to be given to this period in China's history. Recently, a renewed interest in this event has taken place and a bevy of new films were and are being released around the 70th anniversary of the occupation. Unfortunately, with this interest comes the continued denial from right-wing Japanese groups and politicians, including a documentary designed to show the Nanking massacre as propaganda and a fabrication.Those interested in the subject should also read the late Iris Chang's astounding book, "The Rape of Nanking," which is widely available and remains a top seller throughout the world.

Reviewer Score: 8