On December 13, 1937, Japanese soldiers broke through the walls of the city of Nanking, then China's capital, and commenced a reign of terror, rounding up and "processing" 20,000 men in a public square. During the first month of the occupation, an estimated 20,000 rapes were committed; during the first six weeks, 200,000 Chinese were killed. But an estimated 250,000 lives were saved when fifteen Westerners established a two-square-mile safety zone to protect civilian refugees. Inspired by Iris Chang's bestseller The Rape of Nanking, Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman's documentary tells the story of an unlikely partnership between Nazi businessmen and American missionaries, brought together to save those too poor to flee the city. Their letters and diaries, read by actors, tell the story of the committee's chairman, John Rabe (Jürgen Prochnow), a Siemens executive and Nazi party member who hid his Chinese employees in a backyard dugout during the initial air raids; Minnie Vautrin (Mariel Hemingway), the dean of a women's college; Bob Wilson (Woody Harrelson), the only surgeon left in Nanking; and George Fitch (John Getz), a missionary who smuggled film of hospital patients shot by Reverend John Magee out of China. Weaving together interviews with both survivors and Japanese soldiers who participated in the occupation; newsreel footage; Japanese propaganda; and Magee's movies, Nanking gives voice to the forgotten heroes of this dark chapter in human history, as well as those who lived to tell about it.
Bill Guttentag has made documentaries for HBO, ABC and CBS. He won an Oscar® for the documentary Twin Towers (2003). It was his second Academy Award®; the first was in 1989 for You Don't Have to Die. He has received three additional Oscar® nominations, as well as two Emmy Awards. He also created and executive-produced (with Dick Wolf) the NBC series Law & Order: Crime & Punishment. Guttentag recently completed a dramatic feature, Live!
Nanking is Dan Sturman's directorial debut. Previously, Sturman produced the Academy Award®-winning World Trade Center documentary Twin Towers. The film screened at the White House and Sundance in 2005. Sturman has reported and produced for ABC News and the BBC which based in Los Angeles; for Reuters and NBC News while based in London; and for ABC News' 20/20 in New York.