In August of 1937, the Japanese army invaded China. By December 13th, they had defeated the Chinese army and invaded the nation's then-capital, Nanking. The events that followed, referred to as "the rape of Nanking," are documented in the film Nanking, showing at Sundance in the US Documentary competition. The structure of the film was put together largely through the journals and letters of a small group of missionaries, professors and doctors -- and a Nazi businessman, John Rabe -- who refused to evacuate the Nanking when the Japanese army invaded, choosing instead to band together to establish a "safe zone" within the city in order to protect the civilians who lived there.
Like Schindler's List and Hotel Rwanda, Nanking tells a tale of war-time horror through the story of people who tried to help. Directors Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman (with a script co-written by Elizabeth Bentley) bring the events of the invasion of Nanking to life through vintage footage, interviews with survivors, and a staged reading of excerpts from journals and letters by a group of actors including Woody Harrelson, Mariel Hemingway, Rosalind Chao and Jurgen Prochnow.