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Nanjing massacre movie whips up passions as Noda visitsReuters24 December 2011When Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda arrives in China tomorrow, a new blockbuster movie will ensure that the foremost image of the Japanese in many Chinese people's minds will once again be of the country's brutal wartime misdeeds. The story of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, around which Zhang Yimou's The Flowers of War is set, is taught from a young age in China, and countless TV serials, documentaries and books ensure the topic is never out of the public eye for long.Since going on wide release last week, the film, which stars Hollywood actor Christian Bale, has played to sell-out audiences who weep openly during its more disturbing scenes, and has taken 200 million yuan (S$40.8 million) at the box office to date.The film has won top-level political support. Its opening night was held in a government building and it is China's Oscar entry for best foreign language film, though it has received rather tepid reviews in the United States.And director Zhang, who once made edgy films that challenged conventions, has since gone mainstream. He is now firmly viewed as a national hero after orchestrating the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.The Flowers of War, with its dark hints of necrophilia and male rape and scenes of graphic violence, resembles in parts Chinese government-made anti-Japanese propaganda films, and it is certainly having that effect on many in the audience.'What horrible people the Japanese are,' said student Zhao Lan, after watching the movie. 'How can they be that crazy and mad!''The Japanese soldiers are terrible, and I cannot understand why they still do not want to apologise for their wrongdoings,' added a man who gave his surname as Sun. China says invading Japanese troops slaughtered 300,000 men, women and children in Nanjing, then known as Nanking. An Allied tribunal after World War II put the death toll at about 142,000.The film has also triggered a surge of anti-Japanese comments on China's popular Twitter-like microblogs.'After watching that film, my hatred of Japan has suddenly deepened!' wrote Ruruzh on Sina's Weibo.'We should take action now and boycott all Japanese products!' added De Meigao. Some web users suggested Mr Noda see the film when he is in China on his two-day visit, his first since taking office in September.Both Zhang and Bale have said they did not intend to make a film to whip up anti-Japanese sentiment. 'I do not think people will be so narrow-minded as to hate someone just after watching a film,' Zhang said.Bale, who landed himself in the government's bad books by trying to visit a detained rights lawyer, said that if the film ended up promoting hate, 'that would be the worst outcome for me'. He added: 'Any war movie that intended that, clearly should not be made. Any movie concerning war should have its aim to be the opposite of that - it should be reconciliation, it should be understanding.'
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