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Visas and Virtue (1997)

Europe, 1940. For thousands of Jews, a Japanese diplomat and his wife defy Tokyo and the Nazis, and offer visas, for life.


Chris Tashima
Won 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Chris Tashima ... Chiune 'Sempo' Sugihara
Susan Fukuda ... Yukiko Sugihara
Diana Georger ... Helena Rosen
Lawrence Craig ... Nathan Rosen
Shizuko Hoshi Shizuko Hoshi ... Narrator (Elderly Mrs. Sugihara)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Shauna Bloom ... Woman
Jon Cellini ... Brother
Martin Fontana Martin Fontana ... Man
Gibson Frazier ... Cantor
Alan H. Friedenthal Alan H. Friedenthal ... Refugee #1
Eric Gugisch Eric Gugisch ... German Officer
Linda Igarashi ... Setsuko
Jonathan Klein ... Brother
Noel Miller Noel Miller ... Young Man
Kyoko Motoyama ... Elderly Yuki


Haunted by the sight of hundreds of Jewish refugees outside the consulate gates, a Japanese diplomat and his wife, stationed in Kaunas, Lithuania at the beginning of World War II, must decide how much they are willing to risk. Inspired by a true story, VISAS AND VIRTUE explores the moral and professional dilemmas that Consul General Chiune "Sempo" Sugihara faces in making a life or death decision: defy his own government's direct orders and risk his career, by issuing live-saving transit visas, or obey orders and turn his back on humanity. This Academy Award® winning 26-minute portrait gracefully captured in period black and white by noted cinematographer Hiro Narita poignantly pays tribute to the rescuer of 6,000 Jews from the Holocaust. Written by Cedar Grove Productions

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A short film inspired by the true story of Chiune Sugihara


Short | Biography | Drama | War

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | Japanese

Release Date:

20 April 1997 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Cinematographer Hiro Narita was already an industry veteran with over 20 years experience when he shot this film, but it was the first time he had ever filmed in black and white. See more »


Although Shizuko Hoshi performed the scripted voice-over narration for the film (as an elderly Mrs. Sugihara), there are three lines of narration that are not her voice, but instead are spoken by Susan Fukuda (who plays younger Mrs. Sugihara). This was due to an error by the director, Chris Tashima, during post production. Tashima had always intended to have Hoshi provide narration throughout. During principal photography, sound mixer Yehuda Maayan recorded a temp track of Fukuda reading all of the voice over lines, so that editor Irvin Paik would have an audio track to cut with in editing. Later in post production, a recording session was arranged with Hoshi, and Tashima made a dialogue cue sheet of all the narration lines for Hoshi to record from. However, he missed three lines from the script. It was only discovered in final sound editing that the three lines were never recorded by Hoshi. With a completion date nearing, it was decided to go with takes from Fukuda's temp track (to save time). As it turns out, in the finished film, Tashima felt it actually works very well, since the three lines that are spoken by Fukuda are heard during the 1940 scenes in Lithuania (where Fukuda is also onscreen), and, as a more subtle audio transition, it helped the audience ease back into 1985 (when Hoshi is heard in closing narration). See more »


Yukiko Sugihara: Even a hunter cannot kill a bird which flies to him for refuge.
See more »


Featured in The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

This is an amazing film--why haven't we heard more about it?!
10 March 2008 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

This film is about a true hero. A seemingly ordinary man that chose to do the right thing even at the risk of his own life. Like Oskar Schindler and John Rabe, Sempo Sugiwara actively worked to save as many lives as he could during mass genocide. While not the safe or expedient thing to do, these men did what they did because they had to act--to do anything to save the few innocents that they could during the 1930s and 40s. Schindler, you've most likely heard about as it was chronicled in the great Steven Spielberg film SCHINDLER'S LIST. Rabe and Sugiwara's stories are a bit different. Today they are still largely forgotten--especially in their home countries. Rabe was a Nazi official in Nanking, China who risked his own life in 1937 to save countless thousands of Chinese peasants from massacre by a rampaging Japanese army. Sempo Sugiwara was a minor Japanese diplomat in Lithuania who risked his life and career writing 2000 exit visas for Jews fleeing the German invasion--even after his own government warned him not to.

This almost thirty minute film tells the extremely touching story of Sugiwara's crusade to save as many as he could before he was ultimately relocated to another post. While the embassy reportedly averaged 300 visas a month, Sugiwara wrote that many each day until eventually 6000 unwanted Jews were allowed to escape annihilation.

The story is told very simply and with great deftness. Considering that the film was made by two men with very limited experience in the field (Chris Tashima and Tom Donaldson), it's a truly amazing film that had me in tears. Considering that this film is brilliantly executed, it's no surprise that this film ended up winning an Academy Award. A truly exceptional film---so why is it rated so poorly on IMDb?!?!?

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