Japanese Community Protests "Geisha" Girls

by | November 29, 2005 | Comments

Protest is brewing by the Japanese community prior to the release of producer Steven Spielberg‘s screen adaptation of "Memoirs of a Geisha" Chief among the complaints is the casting of Chinese, Malaysian, and Asian actors and actresses in the roles of Japanese characters, and primarily with Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi in the lead.

Based on reported production information the film also features Michelle Yeoh of Malaysia, Gong Li of China, and Kenneth Tsang of Hong Kong, China — all portraying Japanese characters. Group member Jessica Burkard of a local group in Seattle has said there is "complete and utter outrage" in the Japanese community over this, and they, like other groups of Japanese descent, are calling for and planning a boycott of the film.

Knowing the history between China and Japan, the group finds it "highly insulting" that the filmmakers would cast Chinese talents in the parts of Japanese characters. Burkard explained that you would not cast people of African American or Hispanic heritage as Caucasians. "The perception is that we (Chinese and Japanese) look alike, and are the same, well we do not and are not the same and filmmakers should not make sweeping generalizations that are insensitive to our culture and heritage."

This is not the first time that Spielberg has worked on a film based on Japan, as his "Empire of the Sun" and, to a lesser extent, "1941" looked at the war as both as drama and a comedy. Burkard went on to say that they have been in contact with other groups on a local, national, and international basis who share the same concerns and plan to boycott the film as well.

Thanks to Gareth at Skewed & Reviewed for this report.

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