Moving Documentary on Taiwan's Surviving ‘Comfort Women’ Debuts

August 12, 2015
Editor: Kate Wu
Footage of 'Song of the Reed' showing the senior women dressed in wedding gowns, including Wu Xiuzhu, Su Yinjiao, Lu Manmei, Chen Tao, Chen Yang and He Xiufeng (from R to L) [United Daily News]

"Song of the Reed", a documentary on the self-healing process of six women who were once "comfort women", premiered in Taiwan on August 11.

The documentary, completed two years ago by Wu Xiuqing, assistant professor of Taiwan University of Arts, is based on the daily life of a workshop which cares for seniors who were once "comfort women", and was filmed from 2011–2012.

"Comfort woman" is the term used to describe those individuals who were enlisted into sexual slavery during the Japanese occupation.

The workshop has been run for over a decade by the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation, whose fund-raising efforts facilitated a special screening of the film. After its premier, the documentary will be shown at cinemas from August 14.

Of the six heroines in the documentary, four have since passed away. One of them, referred to as Xiaotao Ama, is living at a welfare house. The other, Xiulian Ama, is still expecting an apology from the Japanese government.

Xiaotao was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers on her way to school one day and forced to become a sex slave. She made a living up to the age of over 90 by chopping coconuts at the market until she was taken into care at the welfare house.

In the documentary, she recalled that she had attempted suicides three times. It was her longing to see her grandmother that supported her to survive. But when she arrived home, her grandmother had died.

The first time she went to Japan to accuse the country's government, she had promised to tell all she knew but when she was about to speak, she could not help crying. After repeated practice, she managed to tell the story in whole.

Another woman, refereed to as Datao Ama, became a "comfort woman" with 24 other girls who had prepared to work as nurses in Southeast Asia.

In the documentary, she sobbed as she told of her suffering from violence and insults. "Even if I was a sweet potato leaf, I was still a leaf," she said, referring to her fragile humanity.

The first time she went to Japan to protest, she covered her face and was encouraged by a woman from the Republic of Korea, who said "Why do you cover your face? The fault is not on you." The second day she appeared without covering her face, but trembling.

The documentary also recorded how the foundation helped the women realize their dreams. Wu Xiumei dresses up like a stewardess, Lu Manmei acts like a traffic policewoman, Lianhua Ama records a song at a studio, while Xiaotao weaves a scarf and sends it to her idol Ma Ying-jeou.

(Source: chinanews.com & United Daily News/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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