The historical movie "Tokyo Trial" has proved a big success since opening nationwide in September.
"Every Chinese person, especially teenagers, should watch the movie," said a filmgoer, a retired middle school teacher in her late 70s, whose family was shattered during the Japanese aggression.
Ten days after its debut on September 1, the film about the trial of Japanese war criminals had raked up 10 million yuan (1.25 million U.S. dollars) at the box office, despite competition from Hollywood blockbuster X-Man III.
The Tokyo Trial, which took place after World War II ended, lasted for two and a half years from May 1946 to November 1948. The prosecution team was made up of judges from 11 nations. They sent seven war criminals to the gallows, including Hideki Tojo, who was Japanese Prime Minister during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.
Student Zhou Zhou admitted feeling a surge of patriotism during the movie. "It is awful that Japanese rightists are trying to distort history and that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi keeps on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine."
Wu Chunji, a teacher with the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts at Fudan University, said the film is more touching than any textbook. "I learnt a lot of history I didn't know from the movie, " he said.
The teacher said the characters in the film were vivid and convincing. Japanese soldier Yamada Masa shows remorse for the invasion, while the arrogant Kitano denies everything in court. "They are all representatives of Japanese people nowadays," he said.
Film critic Mao Shi'an believes that the movie's success lies in its main theme, which is not nationalism and hatred, but reflection and a desire for world peace.
Gao Qunshu, director of the movie, said his crew spent more than a year doing research to finish the script, which is based on historical data.
The movie, which cost 18 million yuan (2.25 million U.S. dollars), involves actors and actresses from 11 countries, including several movie stars from Hong Kong and Taiwan. They recreate court scenes from 60 years ago in Chinese, English and Japanese.
Famous Hong Kong actor Damian Lau stars as Mei Ru'ao, the only Chinese judge at the tribunal and an eloquent and patriotic man who convinced the other judges that Hideki Tojo should be hanged.
Gao revealed that some Japanese companies have shown interest in the movie and it is quite likely to be screened in Japan.
Professor Su Zhiliang from Shanghai Normal University, editor of high school history textbooks, intends to include the movie in the textbooks.
Su's other "hat" is director of the Chinese Research Center of Comfort Women. "Comfort women is also a good topic," he said. "Professors of history should cooperate more with movie producers to make good movies like Tokyo Trial."
The movie was shown in cinemas and around 100 universities across the country on Monday to mark the 75th anniversary of the start of Japan's invasion of China.