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Films usually present a unique opportunity of witnessing the drama and the complexity of another person’s life from the perspective of that individual or third-person narration. During approximately two hours, viewers can plunge into another reality and time forgetting about their daily routine and learning something new about the world they live in or merely relaxing by watching some picturesque and captivating scenes. However, some films like “Snow Falling on Cedars” perform an educational goal informing the audience about vital social and cross-cultural communication issues that are considered to be highly controversial in the society.
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Hence, the main and the most topical problem raised in the film entitled “Snow Falling on Cedars” concerns racism and biased treatment of the Japanese in the USA during and after World War II. The small town in the state of Washington where the protagonists live has always been inhabited by the community consisting of Americans and the Japanese who migrated to the US long before the attack on Pearl Harbor and consider themselves to be an integral part of the American nation. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of typical white Americans display huge prejudice towards the Japanese, which is evident from their reaction to forced resettlement of these people to camps during World War II and afterwards during their daily life long after the end of the war. Most of them seem to be incapable of realizing the difference between the American Japanese who have lived beside them for many years and have always respected customs and laws of their new home country, while also trying to preserve some cultural peculiarities, and the Japanese against whom US soldiers were fighting during the war. Hence, the city is stuck in the past and its biased attitude towards the Japanese. However, the representatives of other European nations, for instance residents with obviously German roots evident from their surnames, are treated as equals
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Therefore, it may be concluded that the town suffers from racism and anti-Japanese sentiments. This is the main cause and the most topical issue raised during the trial of Kazuo Miyamoto accused of murdering his childhood friend Karl just on the grounds of being a ‘Jap’, which is a derogatory term he often refers to. The prosecutor frequently appeals to the anti-Japanese moods prevalent in the community and bases his accusations on the racist platform, emphasizing the ethnical origin of the defendant and claiming that all ‘Japs’ are able to easily kill an innocent man as they are taught how to fight and murder since childhood. He merely ignores the fact that Kazuo was raised in the town where everyone knew him and his family rather well, and that the man received honors for fighting against the Nazis during the war in the US army. These facts are often ignored for the sake of portraying the entire Japanese nation as evil and blaming all accidents and crimes occurring in the community on the them.
This film is very accurate, fair, and persuasive in conveying the topical and potentially incendiary cross-cultural issue that occurs on the territory of the USA between citizens with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. No matter how uncomfortable and shameful they may seem for the contemporary US audience that strives to promote equality, eliminate racism, and ensure diversity, the film shows a key aspect of the World War II period and subsequent years when the American Japanese community suffered from countless insults, unjustified persecutions, and extreme biases in all domains of life. All protagonists of the film realize the cultural and ethnic background of the trial. This is often mentioned by Judge Fielding and Kazuo’s attorney, as well as Kazuo’s wife Hatsue when speaking about unfairness of the trial process and of life in general. Racism has become the main reason why Hatsue had to leave Ishmael, her childhood love when the Japanese community was segregated in the US and had to leave their homes to move to camps organized by the government during the war. It seems to be unthinkable that such democratic country as the US would follow the example of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Soviet Union and force its citizens to live in concentration camps just because they had a different cultural and ethnic background. However, it is a sad reality of the past and the film masterfully portrays this acute social issue in the form of a thrilling detective and touching reminiscence about the first love experienced by protagonists in the past and having a significant impact on their present.
The American-made film “Snow Falling on Cedars” shows some cultural peculiarities of the Japanese which concern their community in the US and are depicted as a background for the crime and love story unraveling in the town. In turn, the film “Departures” has been made by Japanese director Yojiro Takita and focuses on the modern culture of this country in. The protagonist of the film is a cellist named Daigo Kobayashi who has to move from Tokyo to his native town not far from mountain Fuji after his orchestra is dissolved. In order to provide a living for his family, he has to find a new job which is not easy for a cellist in a small rural town. Finally, he manages to find an ad that he considers to be about a job in some agency, but that appears to be connected with a profession of a Nokanshi, or a funeral professional.
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In fact, the new position of Daigo is extremely interesting and its depiction in the film offers an invaluable insight into the Japanese culture and spiritual beliefs. On the one hand, Daigo is initially ashamed of his new occupation and agrees to perform its duties due to the reason that he and his wife need money. Besides, some of his acquaintances have a negative reaction when they learn about his job of a funeral professional since they consider it to be abnormal occupation for a young man.
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