Zhang Yimou's new film, Nanjing Heroes, which is currently in production in his native China, has secured a Japanese distributor, according to producer Zhang Weiping. This marks an important change in cultural interaction between the two countries. Japan did not formally acknowledge the massacre of Nanjing civilians in World War Two until 1995, and denial is still widespread. Because very little artistic material on the subject has ever been released in Japan, this aspect of its history is still largely unknown among its people.
Zhang, whose profile received an international boost when he produced the Beijing segment of the opening of China's Olympic games, has noted that most of cultural discussion about the Rape of Nanjing has been internal to China. He hopes that his new film, which features Christian Bale as an American priest attempting to protect civilians in the city, will bring it to the attention of audiences worldwide. Based on the book The 13 Women Of Nanjing, the film takes a female perspective on events. It follows 13 sex workers who disguise themselves as convent girls to spare the real convent girls from the sexual aggression of the invading army. Zhang has cast unknown actresses as the women and hopes to bring a fresh slant to what, in China, is a familiar story.