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  Chinese Way>Life

True documentary

2014-03-31 09:40:46

(Global Times) By Lu Qianwen


Director Chris D. Nebe Photo: courtesy of the Global Communication & Cooperation Company

Although it is an extremely sensitive issue between China and Japan, the Diaoyu Islands dispute is only vaguely talked about in the West, even by scholars. As such, the recently premiered documentary Diaoyu Islands - The Truth is sure to help provide a clear introduction to the origin of the islands, while also suggesting a way the two countries can reconcile their territorial dispute.

Directed by 76-year-old Hollywood-based German director Chris D. Nebe the 42-minute-long documentary premiered on March 11 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. Less than two weeks later the film was shown at a press-screening in Beijing to journalists from both China and Japan on March 23.

"There was no documentary available in either the West nor China about this highly controversial issue," said Nebe. "Western media is biased against China and so I felt it was absolutely necessary to give the Western media timely and accurate information that proves the Diaoyu Islands have been a Chinese territory since ancient times and were illegally annexed as spoils of war after the First-Sino Japanese War in 1895," he wrote in an e-mail interview with the Global Times.

Reflecting the truth through history

By examining the major wars Japan afflicted onto China starting with the First Sino-Japanese War, which lasted from July of 1894 until April of 1895, the documentary showed how Japan has been illegally occupying the Diaoyu Islands since 1895.

Numerous ancient Chinese texts and materials demonstrate how prior to the war the Diaoyu Islands had been an integral part of Chinese territory since ancient times.

The earliest record concerning the ownership of the Diaoyu Islands comes from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) book Shunfeng Xiangsong, which contains oceanic weather forecast and meteorological observations. In this book the Diaoyu Islands are referred to as the Diaoyuyu or the "Dioayu Islets."

To sort out the complicated historical relationship between China and Japan, the director expanded his coverage to as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618-907), during which time another major war broke out between the two countries in 663. Referred to as the Battle of Baekgang, it occurred on the Geum River in the southwestern part of the Korean peninsula.

"It took me about a year to make the film. The most difficult part was the research," said Nebe. "I did extensive research for several months during 2013, utilizing US and Chinese archives, the Internet, libraries and other sources."

The documentary criticized the US government for ignoring China's claim to the islands which should have been returned to China as part of the Treaty of Peace with Japan that the US signed in 1951.

Apart from clearing up historical facts concerning the Diaoyu Islands, the documentary also covered atrocities committed by the Japanese army during the Nanjing Massacre which lasted from December of 1937 until early 1938, as well as the notorious biological experiments carried out on humans by Japan's Unit 731.

Adding credence to the documentary is the massive use of historic pictures and photographic materials by the director. To film these materials, Nebe visited museums such as the Memorial Hall for Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, and the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum, both of which are in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.

Enthusiastic feedback

The documentary received quite a bit of positive feedback from the local public and scholars when it premiered in Los Angeles. "This is a little known issue in the West," Nebe said adding, "Feedback from American academia and other educated Americans who attended the Beverly Hills press-screening was enthusiastic, because they knew little or nothing about the issue and were very glad to learn the truth."

And according to the report by CCTV (China Central Television), audiences who watched the documentary there felt it enriched their knowledge about history.

"It's very interesting, I've read about China for so many years, but I didn't put together all the facts of history that are so important to know," said one of the audience members.

However, when the film was presented in Beijing, things went a little differently due to the indifference of some Japanese journalists.

"There were some Japanese journalists at the Beijing screening, but they declined to interview me, even though I offered them the chance," Nebe told the Global Times. "The film is fair and honest. I was surprised that they didn't want to talk with me but instead left immediately after the screening."

Scheduled to be broadcast soon both nationally and internationally, in the US the documentary will be shown on public TV stations across the US, while also being available on DVD on Amazon. The film will also make its way onto Netflix and other Internet streaming sites in the US, as well as Europe enabling audiences interested in this issue to finally have a chance to approach and learn more information about the dispute.

"Diaoyu Islands - The Truth will allow people around the globe to better know the truth," said German political scholar Florian Lupe to the Chinese edition of the Global Times on March 24. In Florian's view, as a German director, Nebe's documentary represents an international stance that can urge the Japanese government to reflect on its history and discontinue its occupation of the Diaoyu Islands.

"I am sure that an overwhelming number of Japanese people would support the return of the islands to China and also be willing to apologize for the war crimes of Imperial Japan. These issues are unfortunately mishandled by hawkish, opportunistic Japanese politicians," Nebe told the Global Times.

Facilitating reconciliation

As the president of the 50-year-old American film company Monarex Hollywood Corporation, Nebe has also produced the acclaimed Mysterious China Series which includes eight separate documentaries about different parts of China's scenic geography and culture. As a Western director, he is able to introduce intricate Chinese elements such as kung fu or Taoism in an easy to understand way.

Nebe explains that the approach he used in Diaoyu Islands - The Truth was similar to his previous documentary Tibet - The Truth, in which "I chronicle in vivid historic detail that Tibet evolved over the centuries as an integral part of China," he said.

The Tibet documentary won Nebe the 2013 Golden Angel Award for Best Documentary at the Chinese American Film Festival in Los Angeles. The film festival was founded by an independent organization in 2005 in Hollywood and is held annually from October to November.

"My film is about reconciliation. I end the film with a plea to the US to encourage its Japanese allies to return the islands immediately and suggest that Japan should finally apologize for the war crimes of Imperial Japan," said Nebe.

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