Thu, Aug 13, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Documentary on comfort women reaches theaters

Staff writer, with CNA

A Taiwanese documentary chronicling the later years of Taiwanese women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II is to hit moviehouses this week to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of the Sino-Japanese war.

The 76-minute-long Song of the Reed (蘆葦之歌) was produced by the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation and directed by Wu Hsiu-ching (吳秀菁), an assistant professor at National Taiwan University of Arts.

It documents how some of the “comfort women” in Taiwan overcame grave physical and mental trauma and developed their attitudes toward life over the years, the foundation said, adding that the film focuses on women who attended various workshops organized by the group.

“The documentary portrays the strength of life and courage” demonstrated by the women, foundation executive director Kang Shu-hua (康淑華) said.

It is to start showing in cinemas in Taipei, Taoyuan and Kaohsiung tomorrow.

“It is meaningful” that the film is being screened at a time the nation is marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Kang said.

The film follows six Taiwanese women who have openly spoken of their suffering at the hands of the Japanese, but four of them have died since the completion of filming in 2013, the foundation said.

Recounting the three years she spent filming the women, most of whom were in their 80s, Wu said the process was filled with challenges.

The crew had to cultivate their relations with the a-ma (阿嬤, grandmothers in Hoklo, commonly known as Taiwanese) in the movie, and it took a while for the a-ma to overcome the difficulties.

However, “our hearts finally won the a-ma over with real friendship,” she said.

“The documentary records true stories,” Wu said, urging young people to watch the film “to know more about what happened on our home soil.”

Yoko Shiba, a member of a Japanese advocacy group for comfort women issues, said that having met several Taiwanese comfort women over the years, she was very touched by the documentary and greatly misses those who have passed away.

A granddaughter of one of the comfort women featured in the documentary also attended the event, recalling her grandmother, who passed away in June 2013, as an optimistic person.

The film has been screened in five special showings across the nation, as well as in New York, Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan, the foundation said.

Last year, it won the Best Anthropology Concern Award at the International Gold Panda Awards for Documentary in Chengdu, China.

Song of the Reed is the second film on comfort women produced by the foundation.

More than 2,000 Taiwanese women and many more across Asia were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, the foundation said.

The issue is still a point of contention today between countries in the region — particularly South Korea and China — and Japan.

Over the past two decades, the foundation has been dedicated to helping comfort women cope with their mental anguish and seek compensation from Japan. It has launched many initiatives in this regard, including documentaries, art exhibitions and counseling workshops.

Despite the foundation’s repeated calls for an apology and compensation for the comfort women in protests held every year, the Japanese government has never given them a satisfactory response.

With the assistance of the foundation, a group of Taiwanese comfort women filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government in 1999, which they lost in 2005.

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