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Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Current Cinema - John Snadden unearths TWENTY TWO (Ke Guo, China, 2017) a doco which tracks down the remaining Chinese 'comfort women' from WW2

You'll have to be quick but this film is well worth seeking out.

TWENTY-TWO is a new release Chinese language documentary which has become a surprise box-office hit in its home market. It has just started a short season in Australia at selected multiplexes and Melb's Chinatown Cinema.

In China during the Japanese occupation in World War 2, nearly 200,000 young women were incarcerated by the Japanese military to be used as sex slaves by the invading soldiers. These women became known, pejoratively, as comfort women.

In the final weeks of the conflict, the Japanese government attempted to hide their crimes by ordering mass executions of the imprisoned women. Many died but some also survived, and in 2015 it was thought only 22 of these original survivors were still alive in China.

Documentary film-maker Ke Guo has traveled throughout China searching for these 22 women, whom were now well into their 80s and 90s. Not all wanted to be interviewed, but others wanted to tell their stories. These very personal stories don't always follow the script you might be expecting, and the film is underpinned by a deep sense of loneliness and unfulfilled lives (nearly all the women were unable to have children due to the abuse by the soldiers).

They also share a palpable anger at being treated as outcasts in their own country. The etched and weathered faces reflect long lives of physical and psychological trauma. But through the interviews we do see formidable resilience displayed by the "grannies".

The timing and content of the final scene is superb and shows just how tenuous lives and memories are.


On a lighter note, TWENTY-TWO was mostly financed through a crowd funding effort. In a thank-you to all the backers, the film's producers have listed in the final credits each person who stumped up money for the production. In all, 29,150 names are up there on the big screen!

Editor's Note: In Sydney the film is screening at Event Cinemas George St complex. Sessions are currently once a day in the morning. Check here for details.

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