Asia Society Film Recap: Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters

Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters (dir. Ban Zhongyi)

Continuing our recap of the Asia Society series “China’s Past, Present and Future on Film,” here is an excerpt from a full-length review by Joe Bendel of Ban Zhongyi’s groundbreaking documentary Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters:

Her name was Hou Dong E, but she was known as “Gai Shanxi,” meaning “the most beautiful woman in Shanxi Province.” Unfortunately, beauty can be a curse in a time of war. Such was certainly the case for Gai Shanxi and the other Shanxi women forced to serve as sex slaves for the occupying Imperial Japanese military during World War II. Though she never had the chance to bear witness to the atrocities she suffered, Ban Zhongyi tells the story of the former so-called “comfort woman” on her behalf in his documentary, Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters.

Though many in Japan still persistently deny “comfort women” were systematically sexually assaulted, Ban found one Japanese veteran who essentially confirms on-camera the nature and regularity of such crimes (though he understandably tries to minimize his own culpability). That alone makes Ban’s film quite an important cinematic investigation.

Ultimately, Sisters acts as a testament to a truly beautiful woman, who should have been venerated by her community in her own lifetime. Though its execution is imperfect, it is an important, sometimes angry film that should not be ignored.

Read the full review.

Find out more about Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters.

Watch clips from Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters below:

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