The Associated Press is reporting that award-winning Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, Raise the Red Lantern) is starting his next project with the working title Nanjing Heroes in January with actor Christian Bale starring as a priest caught up in the brutal 1937 invasion and pillaging of the Chinese capitol by Japanese troops.
The film is based on Chinese author Yan Geling’s novel “The 13 Women of Nanjing,” about 13 prostitutes who stepped in for female university students who were to be taken as “escorts” for the troops during the period when nearly 20,000 women and girls were raped and killed by the Japanese troops.
The horrifying wartime atrocities known as the “Rape of Nanking” has previously been covered in recent films like the documentary Nanking, Florian Gallenberger’s drama John Rabe and the controversial Chinese blockbuster City of Life and Death.
Bale’s character is a Catholic priest who shelters a group of prostitutes and female students in his church during the invasion. Zhang said that he picked Bale for his versatility and dedication to his roles with the actor doing an impressive amount of research into the history of the massacre, something that greatly moved the filmmaker.
Director Zhang’s $90 million production, which will mix Chinese and English, is slated for a global release in December 2011.