Japan's wartime leaders, hanged as war criminals, were martyrs like Jesus Christ, says the Japanese director of an upcoming film backed by nationalists that argues that the 1937 Nanjing massacre was a fabrication by China.
Satoru Mizushima's The Truth About Nanjing is the latest of many films about Japan's invasion and occupation of the city which has been a thorn in Japan-China ties for seven decades due to wildly differing accounts about casualties.
Backed by Japanese nationalist figures, including Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, and partly funded by donations, the film is billed as part documentary and part fictionalised account of the final 24 hours in the lives of Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal and hanged for war crimes.
"They resemble Jesus Christ who was nailed to the cross in order to bear the sins of the world. They died bearing all of old Japan's good and bad parts and headed for the gallows," Mizushima told Reuters.
"My film is about real Japanese and how they faced their deaths. In a way, they are the last 'Seven Samurai'." he added, referring to Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's classic movie where a group of samurais battle bandits to protect helpless farmers. Seven Japanese were hanged for war crimes.
Mizushima's movie, to be released next spring, has been condemned by the Chinese government, but the director said his research had proved Beijing's report of 300,000 dead was wrong.
"The Chinese government's position now is, 'Let's strike a bargain as long as you admit it was a massacre.' But we refuse to allow that simply because the whole thing is a lie and we don't accept politically motivated lies," he said.
OTHERS ARE PROPAGANDA
The Allied tribunal after World War Two estimated that about 142,000 civilians and prisoners of war were killed when the Japanese captured the city, then known as Nanking and the capital of Nationalist China.
Japan does not present any figure, although it acknowledges that many civilians were killed by invading Japanese troops.
Mizushima says China made up the casualties in order to gain the upper hand in world politics, and also discredits several witness accounts by Westerners who were in Nanjing at the time, calling them communist "spies".
Seven different films are scheduled to be made about Nanjing this year, the 70th anniversary of its capture, including a Chinese movie based on Iris Chang's best-selling book on Nanjing. Mizushima called most of these films 'propaganda'.
"I don't want to make a film in the same shrill, hypocritical humanist vein the Chinese are trying to sell to the world and about how they were destroyed by Japanese militarism and how they fought to protect their families and freedom," Mizushima said.
Post-war ties between China and Japan have been bedevilled by what Beijing says has been Tokyo's refusal to admit to the wartime atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers.
Relations turned icy under former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, largely due to his annual visits to a Tokyo shrine where convicted war criminals are honoured along with Japan's millions of war dead.
Koizumi stepped down in September 2006, and his successors have managed to repair ties.
As part of their efforts, Chinese and Japanese historians are working on a project to narrow the two countries' differences in perceptions of history.