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Groundbreaking Documentary <i>Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters</i> at Asia Society

by Isabel Cai and Kevin B. Lee

Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters (dir. Ban Zhongyi)

Ban Zhongyi’s documentary Gan Shanxi and Her Sisters, an important documentary about an extraordinary woman forced to serve as a sex slave during World War II, will screen at Asia Society this Friday, April 9, 2010 as part of the society’s “China’s Past, Present, and Future on Film” program. dGenerate Films’ Karin Chien will introduce the screening.

You can use discount code asia725 to buy tickets at the $7 member rate. Tickets can be purchased at the Asia Society website or at the Asia Society box office.

Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters (Gai Shan Xi He Ta De Jie Mei Men) BAN Zhongyi. China. 2007. Documentary. 80 min. Digibeta. Friday, April 9, 6:45 pm

The screening of Gai Shanxi comes on a wave of resurgent interest in the Japanese Occupation of China during WWII, as well as the treatment of women during the Occupation, as depicted in at least two recent notable films. How does Gai Shanxi compare? Read on, and watch a clip, after the break.

The recent release of Lu Chuan‘s City of Life and Death has rekindled global awareness of the Rape of Nanking. It also has stirred no small degree of attention and controversy, as detailed extensively on our site. There is also a new Japanese documentary that delves into this dark history that’s still downplayed or denied by many Japanese. Japanese activist Tamaki Matsuoka spent years making Torn Memories of Nanjing, interviewing hundreds of Japanese veterans about their wartime experiences. According to ABC News, the documentary “breaks new ground with interviews of both aggressors and victims – an elderly Chinese woman tearfully giving details about being sexually assaulted as a girl then a Japanese veteran admitting that he enjoyed rape.”

However, these details – as well as a Japanese soldier’s confession of partaking in sex crimes – are already covered in Ban’s Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters. From a review by Joe Bendel in the Epoch Times:

Gai Shanxi ought to be called the Saint of Shanxi. Frequently abused to the point of physical trauma, she still served as the younger girls’ protector, often taking their place with particularly abusive servicemen. As a fittingly tragic conclusion to her story, Gai Shanxi died before Ban could find her, yet that provided further impetus to document her story. Indeed, Ban preserves the historically valuable first-person accounts of several of her former “sisters,” conveying a horrifying sense of brutish reality they endured… Though many in Japan still persistently deny “comfort women” were systematically sexually assaulted, Ban found one Japanese veteran who essentially confirms on-camera the nature and regularity of such crimes (though he understandably tries to minimize his own culpability). That alone makes Ban’s film quite an important cinematic investigation.

More information about the film can be viewed on our catalog. View clips from the film:


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