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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Florian Gallenberger
Strand Releasing 05/10 DVD/VHS Feature Film
John Rabe is an engaging German film that focuses on the heroism of a business manager in China who saved over 250, 000 lives during the Nanking Massacre by the Japanese in 1937-1938. The New York Times called him the "Oscar Schindler of China" and the Chinese people refer to him as a "living Buddha." These tributes are to a man who was a loyal member of the Nazi Party and a true believer in Hitler. At one point, he even wrote the Fuhrer a letter asking him to help bring a halt to the slaughter of Chinese citizens and soldiers by the Japanese Army. This bio-drama is written and directed by Florian Gallenberger and is based on diaries by John Rabe about the incidents in the film. It won four German Film Awards in 2009.
It is 1937 and John Rabe (Ulrich Tukur) and his wife Dora (Dagmar Manzel) are preparing to leave Nanking, the capital city of China where he has managed the China branch of the Siemen's, a German company, for 30 years. He hands over the office to Werner Fleiss (Mathias Herrmann) who informs him that the company has been ordered to close its doors. At a farewell dinner for Rabe, he is honored by the Chinese workers who have great respect for him and are sad to see him go. But the proceedings are interrupted by the bombing of the city by the Japanese. Thanks to some quick thinking, Rabe saves many lives by gathering the workers under a gigantic Nazi flag; he knows the bombers will consider it off-limits.
At a gathering of the international community in China, Valerie Dupres (Anne Consigny), the French head of a girls' school, nominates Rabe to head up a proposed Safety Zone to protect Nanking's besieged citizens from the Japanese onslaught. Although he feels this German businessman is an untrustworthy Nazi, Dr. Robert Wilson (Steve Buscemi), an American doctor, reluctantly agrees to work with him. Dr. George Rosen (Daniel Bruhl), a German Jewish diplomat, explains how difficult it will be to shelter and feed so many people.
Things go from bad to worse when the Japanese High Command gives orders to shoot all prisoners and civilians as well. (It has been estimated that they killed more than 200,000 men, women, and children.) After seeing the bodies of just executed Chinese soldiers, Valerie Dupres makes a decision to secretly hide soldiers in an attic area. When Rabe finds out about this act of compassion, which puts the whole safety zone in jeopardy, he does nothing about it.
This film is about a genuine hero whose grace under pressure is an inspiration to all around him. His leadership qualities serve him well in several tense and fateful encounters with the Japanese military brass.
Special features on the DVD include the original theatrical trailer; and other Strand Releasing trailers.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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