‘We resolve our own sorrows’: screening comfort women in Chinese documentary films

Pingfan Zhang, Cheng Fang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article adds a critical lens to the vicissitudinous public remembrance of the comfort women in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the oscillating representations of comfort women in Chinese documentary films. First, it probes how the violated bodies of comfort women on the screen constantly challenge and disrupt the entrenched gender norms in the interstices of the PRC’s official paradigms of “national humiliation” and “national greatness.” Then, it examines the distinctive film esthetics and documentary ethics of Chinese director Guo Ke’s documentary films Thirty Two (2014) and Twenty Two (2017), given that the latter harvested record-breaking box office sales and incited heated online discussions of the comfort women issue in China. In particular, this article scrutinizes how Guo’s esthetically appealing, politically non-confrontational, and ethically provocative approach helps constitute survivors’ private, gendered memories and encourages the viewers to contemplate his minimalist narratives. In a broader sense, this article contributes to the discussions of gender, nationalism, war remembrance, and documentary filmmaking in contemporary China.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024


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