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Snow Falling on Cedars (1999)

A Japanese-American fisherman is accused of killing his neighbor at sea. In the 1950s, race figures into the trial. So does reporter Ishmael.


Scott Hicks


David Guterson (novel), Ronald Bass (screenplay) (as Ron Bass) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ethan Hawke ... Ishmael Chambers
Yûki Kudô ... Hatsue Miyamoto (as Youki Kudoh)
Reeve Carney ... Young Ishmael Chambers
Anne Suzuki ... Young Hatsue Imada
Rick Yune ... Kazuo Miyamoto
Max von Sydow ... Nels Gudmundsson (as Max Von Sydow)
James Rebhorn ... Alvin Hooks
James Cromwell ... Judge Fielding
Richard Jenkins ... Sheriff Art Moran
Arija Bareikis ... Susan Marie Heine
Eric Thal ... Carl Heine Jr.
Celia Weston ... Etta Heine
Daniel von Bargen ... Carl Heine Sr. (as Daniel Von Bargen)
Akira Takayama Akira Takayama ... Hisao Imada
Ako ... Fujiko Imada
Learn more

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It's 1950 on San Pedro Island in the American Pacific Northwest. Commercial fisher Carl Heine Jr.'s dead body is pulled out of the water in a fishing net by his crew, he who died of head trauma. Kazuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. Carl and Kazuo were once friends, had known each other since childhood, but WWII has placed a strain on any sort of relationship between the ethic Japanese and Caucasian populations of the area, the Japanese population which was and is still substantial on the island. Carl had motive regarding a land dispute between the two families, land which Carl's mother eventually sold from under the Miyamotos and which Carl had just repurchased. Evidence also points to Kazuo being on the water with Carl probably sometime during his last voyage, evidence which Kazuo knew would put him in a bad light, adding on top of being Japanese, and thus decided not to disclose to the investigating sheriff at the time he was questioned. Kazuo and his wife Hatsue's fear come ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


First loves last. Forever. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, sensuality and brief strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


When the Japanese-Americans are sent to internment camps, many of the extras were Japanese-Americans who had actually been sent to the camps in the 1940s. See more »


Etta Heine says she'd sold the land to Ole Jorgensen. Her son, Carl Jr., says he bought it from Ole. In a deleted scene, Ole says he bought it from Etta, then went on to sell it to Carl, Jr. See more »


Arthur Chambers: That's the thing with girls. They grew up and break your heart.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Jan Rubes and Sheila Moore are on the credits despite their scenes being deleted. See more »


Referenced in The Directors: The Films of Scott Hicks See more »


Washington Post
Written by John Philip Sousa
See more »

User Reviews

Cedars of Lebanon
7 April 2006 | by sol-kaySee all my reviews

***SPOILERS*** Beautifully photographer period piece, 1941-1950, about a pre-Pearl Harbor forbidden love affair between a young all-Amerian boy Ishmeal Chambers , Ethen Hawke,and Japanese-American girl Hatsue Imanda, Youki Kudoh. The love affair became an obsession with Ishmeal after Hatsue, with the urging of her Japanese parents, left him for another man Japanese-American and WWII war hero Kazom Yamoto, Rick Yune.

It's now ten years later and Kazom is on trial for the murder of local Washington State fisherman Carl Heine, Eric Thal. Carls family had been involved in a bitter dispute over some land that was taken from Kazoms wife's, Hatsue, family during their interment in a US concentration camp during WWII.

Ishmeal now a reporter for his late fathers Arthur Chambers, Sam Shepard, town newspaper "The Island Review" is covering the Kazom Yamoto murder trial and the emotions that it bring out; Kazom having married his child-hood sweetheart Hatsue, are interfering with his objectivity in reporting the trial.

Defended by local defense attorney Nels Gudmundsson, Max Von Sydon, who has his hands full in trying to keep out the fact that Kazom, who's a highly decorated WWII veteran, being Japanese is somehow through guilt-by-ancestry responsible for the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by the then Japan Tojo government. This line of questioning by the state attorney Alvin Hooks, James Rebhorn, brings the worst out of what the trial of Kazom Yamoto shouldn't be about. Since it has nothing to do with the death, or murder, of Carl Heine but everything to do with the treatment of the Japanese-Americans living on the west coast by the US government during WWII.

Ishmael who was brought up in a very liberal household with his father almost losing his newspaper, due to falling sales, by sticking out his neck after Pearl Harbor in defending the Japanese-Americans in town.In his editorializing against the US government policy of putting them in internment camps and taking away their properties. Now he's doing just the opposite of what his late father did by letting his emotions, in Ishmeal's resentment of Kazom for taking Hatsue away from him, override his sound judgment in that the evidence against Kozom isn't air tight. Ishmeal is also very bitter toward Japanese-Americans Kazom and Hatsue in that he lost his left arm in, what looked like the November 1943 battle of Tarawa,the Pacific fighting as a US Marine against the Imperial Japanese Army.

Eerie drama that grips you like a blistering North Pacific snowstorm and hold your interests for over two hours until the final verdict comes in not just on the fate of Kazom Yamoto but the heart and soul of Ishmeal Chambers. Who's has been greatly hurt by Hatsue rejecting him and then staggeringly traumatized over the trial and the real and dark, reasons behind it. That Ishmeal at first, because of his past and sad experiences with Hatsue blindly and conveniently overlooked.

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English | Japanese | German

Release Date:

7 January 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Snow Falling on Cedars See more »

Filming Locations:

Cathlamet, Washington, USA See more »


Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$32,135, 26 December 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

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