A documentary shedding light on the harrowing experiences of Chinese “comfort women” during World War II has made its long-awaited debut in Japan, six years after its initial release, thanks to the efforts of an international Chinese student.
The movie “Twenty Two” delves into the daily experiences of Chinese women who were unwillingly forced into sexual servitude by Japanese soldiers during World War II. Although the documentary was originally released in 2017, it was screened for the first time in Japan at the Kansai Queer Film Festival in Osaka on September 18. This date marks the 92nd anniversary of the Mukden incident in 1931, which is considered the beginning of Japan’s invasion of China.
The director, Guo Ke, expressed his surprise and gratitude for the Japanese debut, which became possible thanks to a Chinese university student in Japan who recommended the documentary to the festival organizers. Guo emphasized the significance of young generations continuing the mission of raising awareness about this dark chapter in history.
The documentary’s title, “Twenty Two,” refers to the 22 victims featured in the film, which was shot in 2014. Guo Ke’s previous film, “Thirty Two,” produced in 2012, focused on 32 survivors who were still alive at that time. Both films were a race against time, as the victims were all over 90 years old when they were filmed.
When “Twenty Two” premiered in China in 2017, only eight of the women filmed were still alive. By late August, that number had dwindled to just one. Currently, only 10 victims in mainland China registered by the China Comfort Women Research Centre are still alive.
During the 1930s and 1940s, an estimated 200,000 women from mainland China, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other regions were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military. Japan’s history of wartime sex slavery has remained a contentious issue in its diplomatic relations with neighboring countries, including China.
Guo expressed satisfaction that the film made its Japanese debut on the 92nd anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China, underscoring the importance of ensuring that more people become aware of the victims’ experiences. He also expressed gratitude for the public’s support in producing the film, with over 30,000 people in China contributing to an online fund drive six years ago.
The production team continues to update the film’s social media followers about the surviving victims. They also sell commemorative items, such as badges and tote bags related to the film, with profits donated to the survivors. Guo shared a touching moment when a 22-year-old Chinese audience member at the Osaka screening mentioned that she always carries a badge from the film when she travels so that the survivors can “see a bigger world.” Guo reaffirmed the team’s commitment to raising awareness and honoring the victims as long as there are people willing to support their cause.