when I thought I could close the “WTF?!?!?!” file for 2006, Twitchfilms reports that the movie version of Iris Chang’s powerful The Rape of Nanking, a non-fiction account of Japanese atrocities in WWII, is filming next month. Under the direction of Simon “One of the worst directors working on Earth” West.

Nazi Germany gets all the WWII war crime ink, but the Japanese did their best as well. Among the inhuman acts of cruelty Japan visited upon all those who were not Japanese was the Nanking Massacre (or Rape of Nanking, as per the book title), a six-week campaign of horror in 1937 and 1938. Japan invaded China and Nanking fell; in the weeks after the Imperial Army began trying to root out Chinese soldiers disguised as civilians, but that was just a pretext for looting, arson, murder, and rape. Between 150,000 and 300,000 Chinese were butchered. Some Japanese deny the event took place, and in 1982 the Japanese government censored mentions of it in a school textbook.

Reading Chang’s book is like being worked over with brass knuckles. The book is a straight popular history book, but the film, with a script by William Macdonald (IMDB seems to indicate this is the William McDonald who appeared in… Slither and Battlestar Galactica???) will tell the story through the eyes of a mother and daughter. Simon West will then take that script and perform his own special personal kind of rape on it. West last directed When A Stranger Calls, which means that he is personally acquainted with atrocities.

The Rape of Nanking is a joint US/British/Chinese film with a budget of 38 million bucks, but even that low sum for a massive historical tragedy epic does not justify the hiring of Simon West. How did his name even come up? I am seriously baffled by this in ways that I don’t think words can express. This is an important and serious subject, and it’s being handled by the guy whose career highlight is Con Air. This is the man who directed The General’s Daughter! This is a man whose expertise is plumbing the depths of inept and unwatchable filmmaking.

The Rape of Nanking will be released in China in December of 2007 for the anniversary of the massacre; a worldwide release will follow in 2008. In 2077 a movie will be released to commemorate the anniversary of the first audience who sat through West’s film.