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An Island's Memory
Snow Falling On Cedars is set against a riveting piece of American history: the national crisis which erupted following Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor. The film moves back and forth in time to include scenes of World War II as well as the crisis on American soil.

  The United States officially joined the war effort abroad, while confronting at home, a developing climate of paranoia and suspicion towards Japanese Americans. Eventually, by governmental decree, Japanese Americans were relocated to internment facilities where they remained for the duration of the war. When it ended, many returned to their original homesteads.

The film, like the novel, is set on San Piedro, a fictional island north of Puget Sound. There, the Anglo and Japanese-American populations have long lived in relative harmony -albeit within a tacit caste system in which immigrants, who are not permitted to own land, work Anglo berry farms. But Japan's shocking action electrifies, and divides, the community. Some people take advantage of their neighbors' tragedy, while others watch in silence as San Piedro's entire Japanese American population is sent into exile.

Now, nine years later, one of those very same individuals is on trial for his life. Kazuo Miyamoto (Rick Yune), an American-born man of Japanese descent, was just past boyhood when his family was sent to Manzanar, in the California desert. After volunteering to serve in the U. S. military, he returned to San Piedro. Proud and defiant, Miyamoto in the courtroom is like a specter from that bygone era, forcing memories long suppressed into the open. As twenty years of life on San Piedro are peeled away by the judicial process, factual truth proves stunningly elusive. Old wounds and antagonisms erupt from the witness stand -but do they add up to murder? When details of a land deal gone awry spill out, it gradually becomes clear that another kind of trial is evolving alongside that of the fisherman: the wartime behavior of island residents.

  Yet within this labyrinth lies an even more deeply hidden secret: the haunting childhood love of Ishmael (Ethan Hawke) and Hatsue (Youki Kudoh). As children they worked alongside each other in the fields, he for pocket money and she to help her family. In their teen years they were exceptionally cautious. Forbidden by custom to have an open relationship, they secretly met in the hollow of a giant cedar. Now, they meet in a courtroom where Hatsue's husband, Kazuo, is accused of murder.

The truth about this tragedy will ultimately emerge, not from legal proceedings but from the deepest, most tender chamber of the human heart.

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