This report analyzes regionalism in several contexts as they pertain to the movie Snow Falling on Cedars. The movie is pervasively filled with considerations relating to regionalism, outsiders vs. insiders, how insiders and outsiders mesh and the very dicey results that can ensue, how all of this plays off of national and international situations and conflicts and so forth. This movie establishes that many unique and different things can influence who interacts with who, how and why and the things that impact all of this are not just limited to race and nationality.
Movie Setting & Synopsis
The year and country this film is set in has a ton to do with why people feel the way they do and why there is such a bred animosity towards Kabuo, to the point that his guilt is almost assumed and someone very important in the movie actually withholds information that would exonerate him. The war is set roughly one and a half decades after Pearl Harbor in the Washington state area. This becomes extremely relevant because a white fisherman ends up drowning to death under very unclear and very mysterious circumstances and the main suspect has a seemingly obvious motive to kill the dead man.
But before getting into the minutia of the trial and how it all ends up, how the movie sets the tone and the mood. The colors are very stark and very pale. The look and feel of the early fishing scenes set the tone, showing a very pale environment that is borderline depressing just at the sight. The paleness of Hatsue's skin when Ethan Hawke's character Ishmael tries to talk to her and her cold demeanor to match just drive that point home further, although it becomes quite clear as the movie goes on why she was so cold to him.
Something else that is established quite early is that the white fishermen in the area are very anti-Japanese. They are clearly bigoted against people like Kabuo just because of his race. The collection of men talking with the sheriff make it quite clear early on that they assume that Kabuo is guilty. It is so blunt that an actual racial slur is uttered in clear earshot of everyone. It is clear that the fishermen are very close-knit and very likeminded. The people native and perceived to be home residents of the town are obviously have a bond that is very strong, even if that bond is built on a lot of negative feelings and behaviors. However, the bond of these white fishermen is not just limited to Japanese and other racial minorities but also pertains to any other perceived threats to their camaraderie as well. The reporter Ishmael approaching the group as they talk with the sheriff makes them noticeably react in a very negative way. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that Ishmael was previously in a relationship with the aforementioned Katuse but that is not made clear at the time.
There is also a collection of Japanese-Americans and other immigrants in the area and they coalesce around each other as well. There is very much a dichotomous relationship in the area as the Caucasians of the area stick together while the Japanese form their own group. However, as will be made clear throughout this work, these two groups intersect and interact in ways that are not expected to be the case even with the very tenuous and sometimes vitriolic nature of the relationship.
That being said, most of the arcs and tangents in this film and how they play together center on Japanese/American tensions post World War II. Kabuo's family had previously entered an agreement to purchase land from the father of the dead fisherman but the untimely death of Carl Heine Sr. lead to his widow reneging on the agreement even though all but two payments were made and the only reason the payments stopped was because the family was sent to an internment camp. Even with that, the person who ended up getting the land instead eventually had a stroke and decided to sell but Carl Jr. had beaten him to it. Even so, Carl Jr. tentatively agreed to sell him the parcel that was originally promised to Kabuo's father but was undecided mostly because of his own prejudice against the Japanese. The voyage he took to sea while considering this is when he died and even though a wake of a freighter knocking him off the boat is what caused him to drown, a blood-soaked piece of wood seemed to implicate Kabuo, with the motive being related to the land sale.
Ishmael eventually finds proof that Kabuo is innocent but holds out revealing this until the last minute because he was previously jilted with very little explanation by Hatsue, who is now Kabuo's wife. However, while the trial is deadlocked with one juror saving Kabuo, Ishmael eventually reveals what he knows and Kabuo is freed.
Regionalism in "Snow Falls"
There are several major dynamics that are in play in this movie. First, as noted earlier, the fisherman of the fishing city are very close-knit, they hate the Japanese with a passion (although it is not always overt) and they are very slow to turn on or otherwise offend their own but they react very viscerally to anyone that comes off as a threat, such as Ishmael. Another consideration is that the land that Kabuo was trying to procure was already basically bought and paid for before Carl Sr.'s family allowed their racism to color their actions and feelings. Not all of the negative events for Kabuo's family was Carl's family's fault (the internment camp thing was a national initiative) but they still could have honored the deal after everything blew over.
Ishmael's prior relationship with Hatsue is also a huge part of this movie. The relationship ended acrimoniously with little explanation offered to Ishmael and was presumably related to the fact that Ishmael was white and Hatsue was Japanese. There is also probably a gender-related dimension to that given that it is extremely likely that Hatsue's family, probably her father or another male, is who demanded the relationship end. Kabuo has his own demons. Even though he knows he did not kill Carl Jr., regardless of what his city-mates think, he feels guilty for killing Japanese troops during the war while fighting for the Americans. Despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that the Americans seemingly turned his back against his service when his family was interned, he still feels guilty over killing the people of his ancestral homeland.
Insights from Peer-Reviewed Literature
There are a number of sources that the author of this paper found and reviewed. Two of them specifically mention and related to the movie reviewed within this report while the others general discuss regionalism in one context or another. Some view regionalism as being associated with only negative things while others view it is as something that, while not always positive, can be refined and looked at in a different light so as to make it a positive thing. For example, having pride in one's country is a good thing but not at the expense of looking down at other countries or the people from them.
One of the works related specifically to the film reviewed and discussed in this report remarks that Kabuo is assumed to be a killer as a means to exact perverted justice for his family after his father was swindled out of land he had basically paid for prior to the internment of his family. This work also notes the irony of the fact that the area in the movie purported to be Puget Sound is actually Slocan Lake which is a bit ironic because that was an epicenter for Japanese resettlement running from around 1942 to a bit after the war ended (Roy). Another scholarly work relating to Cedars offers a suggestion from filmmaker Josef von Sternberg to watch the film in question upside down because it makes people much more attentive to the sound and dialog of the film, which is very relevant when discussing something as profound as Cedars.
When looking at regionalism as a broader topic, the literature is no less informative. One such article talks about regionalism conflicts between Caucasians and non-Caucasians. The article notes that regionalism can focus on individual regions within countries, the countries themselves, or clusters of similar countries. The article points to the former Soviet Union states as an example while a different one points to a United State like Utah (Sakwa)("Old Regionalism") In a similar vein in terms of historical context, there is also the historical track record of fascism, which is very socially and historically relevant to Cedars (Goodfellow).
Based on the reviews of the articles above and the movie, the whole question and concept of regionalism should be brought into question (Jonas). Regionalism can obviously be a very positive thing but it can…