Richmond sisters’ geisha film part of Your Kontinent

Suzi Nitta Petersen stars as a kimono-clad movie extra who gets extra special treatment on film sets.  - Simon Leung Photography (simonleungphotography.com) photo
Suzi Nitta Petersen stars as a kimono-clad movie extra who gets extra special treatment on film sets.
— image credit: Simon Leung Photography (simonleungphotography.com) photo

It's cheekily referred to as a short film with a long title, and it's one of the selections at this weekend's Your Kontinent film and media arts festival at Richmond Cultural Centre.

Produced by Richmond sisters Michele Nitta and Suzi Nitta Petersen, Memoirs of the Last Samurai's Geisha is an 11-minute comedy film inspired by the pair's experiences working as movie extras.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Nitta Petersen said sometimes they'd be asked to arrive on set wearing a Japanese kimono. Inevitably, many men on set believed they were geishas—women highly trained in a range of traditional Japanese arts.

"They were actually bowing to us and being very extraordinarily polite. We found that rather amusing that we were being treated differently because we were wearing kimono," said Nitta Petersen.

The born-and-raised Richmond sisters told the story to Liz Nunoda, a writer with an interest in short films. Nunoda penned the script with Nitta Petersen as the lead actress.

The film, shot in 2008, offered Nitta Petersen one her longest roles to date.

"It was a long, hot shoot because it was August. It was a lot of work, but I would say it was fun work with great people," she said. "It was kind of a bonding experience."

Your Kontinent is the fourth film festival to show Memoirs of the Last Samurai's Geisha.

Festivals, Nitta Petersen said, offer the sisters direct audience feedback and bolster the reputation of their company Zento Productions, which is now dangling a new film in front of festival organizers.

Stand Up and Fight is a documentary with the same director, Chad Band, behind the camera. It's a portrait of Canadian professional boxer and stand-up comic Brad Shlomo McPeake, who faces a win-or-retire fight in his hometown. Numerous festivals are considering it, and if it gets a successful run, there's always the possibility of a distribution deal.

"It's a long shot, but we always hope for the best," said Nitta Petersen.

Your Kontinent runs Friday, July 20 to Sunday, July 22. Memoirs screens Sunday at 10:30 a.m. ahead of the feature film Romeo Eleven. Tickets are $8 or $30 for an all-access pass.

Rebranded last year, the festival is entering its fifth year at Richmond Cultural Centre. It's a product of Cinevolution Media Arts Society, which continues its mission of demonstrating the interconnectedness of the world and promoting intercultural understanding.

Your Kontinent 2012

•Richmond international film and media arts festival

•July 20 to 22 at Richmond Cultural Centre

•Presented by Cinevolution Media Arts Society and City of Richmond

•$8 for single screenings and $30 for festival pass at the cultural centre or 604-247-8300

•More info at ykfestival.ca and 604-247-8300

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