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China puts spanner in H'wood's Geisha

China has banned Memoirs of a Geisha over concerns that the film could reignite anti-Japanese sentiment.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2006 14:19 IST

China has banned Hollywood's Memoirs of a Geisha a week before it was due to be released over fresh concerns that the film could reignite anti-Japanese sentiment, industry executives said today.

"It is true that the film will not be released in China, according to a letter we received from China Film," Li Chow, general manager for Sony's Columbia Tristar Pictures in Beijing, told AFP in an e-mail. "It said that China Film Group Corporation and other distributors decided to delay indefinitely the release of Memoirs of A Geisha in China mainly because of the negative social response to the film reflected on various media."

 The movie, directed by Rob Marshall and co-produced by Steven Spielberg, came under fire in the Chinese media because the main geisha (Japanese courtesan) character, Sayuri, and her rival, Hatsumomo, are played by popular Chinese actresses Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li.

Memoirs of a Geisha, based on Arthur Golden's best-selling 1997 novel, tells the story of a girl from a poor Japanese fishing village who is sold to a geisha house and goes on to romance a rich businessman. The film had been set for its mainland China debut on February 9 after winning initial approval from domestic importer and distributor the China Film Group but was scrapped this week amid fears it could spark a public backlash.

The movie, directed by Rob Marshall and co-produced by Steven Spielberg, came under fire in the Chinese media because the main geisha character, Sayuri, and her rival, Hatsumomo, are played by popular Chinese actresses Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li.

Many in China see the Japanese courtesans as prostitutes, and government officials were therefore worried that the two actresses' potrayals could evoke memories of Japanese wartime aggression towards mainland women.

First Published: Feb 02, 2006 13:58 IST