I will begin my post with a list below:
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
The Great Escape (1963)
Von Ryan’s Express (1967)
Escape to Victory (1981)
Empire of the Sun (1987)
The Great Raid (2005)
The Railway Man (2014)
These are all titles of Hollywood films with one thing in common. The plots of these films are all about World War Two Allied prisoners of war who even in captivity still bravely and tenaciously fight with their enemies, the Germans and the Japanese. Under the category of “World War II prisoner of war films”, you can find over fifty titles on Wikipedia. These are films that have made box office hits. There must be over a hundred produced by independent Western film makers.
Regrettably, none of these films is about Chinese prisoners of war.
We Chinese always claim that we had been fighting Japanese since 1931 and our casualties were more than the total civilians and soldiers of all Allied nations killed from 1939 to 1945. Why after seventy years of V-E Day and V-J Day is there not a single film about our POWs?
Recently I saw a documentary on Youtube about Chinese POWs produced by the Yunnan Station of CCTV, the Chinese official TV station. The title is “Dauntless POWs”. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgOhEgnMIVs )
The host of that documentary show told the audience at the beginning that no one knows the exact number of Chinese soldiers captured by the Japanese, not to mention how many had survived when the war ended in 1945. However, one thing is for sure. It is useless to expect that Japanese captors would abide the Geneva Convention and treated Chinese POWs humanely. When Chinese soldiers laid down their weapon, the fate awaited them is execution, starvation, and forced labor to death. Over forty thousand Chinese POWs were shipped to Japan as slave laborers during the war, one fourth of them never returned. A juvenile POW remembers that, upon arriving the POW camp, he was asked by a fellow older prisoner to urinate to his mouth because he was so thirsty and Japanese did not even give him water to drink. Even after seventy years, the survivors still have hard time recollecting what they had suffered when they visited a museum in Jianchuan, Chendu of Szechuan province in honor of the fallen Chinese POWs in the fight against Fascist aggression.
Hollywood is often criticized to shoot movies trying to build a mirage of capitalist world with tons of money. Yet the fact that the theme of World War II POWs still attracts producers willing to dump money to make movies about it has a positive effect. People must be constantly reminded the history of their forefathers so that they might try hard not to repeat it.
I do hope that Chinese film producers have the same vision as their Hollywood counterpart and make movies about tens of thousands of unknown Chinese heroes who had shedded their blood to fight for our freedom.