Hollywood falling on Bainbridge

"For one day, Hollywood and home were one and the same.It was in sparkling evidence during Sunday’s special benefit premiere screenings of “Snow Falling On Cedars,” the eagerly awaited film adaptation of David Guterson’s critically aclaimed and best-selling novel, at Bainbridge Cinemas."

  • Wednesday, December 8, 1999 11:00am
  • News

“For one day, Hollywood and home were one and the same.It was in sparkling evidence during Sunday’s special benefit premiere screenings of “Snow Falling On Cedars,” the eagerly awaited film adaptation of David Guterson’s critically aclaimed and best-selling novel, at Bainbridge Cinemas.There some islanders were, hobnobbing with Academy-Award nominated director Scott Hicks. There others were, spotting the faces of friends and neighbors on the silver screen. And there was Guterson, the Bainbridge Island author whose first novel brought the two disparate worlds together.“This is wonderful, the way the film came together, and the way the community has come together to celebrate it,” Guterson said. “It’s a great day for the people of Bainbridge Island.”Few would be hard-pressed to disagree, given that nearly 800 people paid nearly $20,000 benefiting a quartet of island multicultural organizations to attend the one-day gala event. Nearly everyone who attended, notably the Japanese Americans of the island whose real-life stories were told onscreen, bathed the film in lavish praise.“It was very powerful. Once my tears started rolling, I couldn’t stop,” said Kay Nakao, who experienced the real-life internment of Bainbridge’s Japanese Americans in 1942 and revisited it as an extra in the film 56 years later. “It really brought back memories … I was sort of reliving it.”The film, like Guterson’s 1994 novel, is a love story and murder mystery set against a Northwest island community ravaged by lingering mistrust between whites and Japanese Americans in the wake of forced internment during World War II.The novel was a runaway success, selling more than 4 million copies. It led to a collaboration soon after on the film version between Guterson and Hicks – another artist who hit a home run his first time out of the box with the Oscar-nominated film, “Shine.”“It’s wonderful to be back on Bainbridge Island, because this is where the journey began,” said Hicks, an Australia native. “After ‘Shine’ … nothing came close to engaging my passion the way this book did.”“It’s been a great two years of my life, and it completes the circle to be here today.”Bainbridge was the target of initial location scouting for the film, but Guterson said the island was passed over because “the decisive factor was the reliability of snow.” Filming began in early 1998 in Greenwood, British Columbia, which was the principal setting for the story’s fictional San Piedro Island. The combined cachet of the novelist and director landed them a top-flight cast – Ethan Hawke, Sam Shepard, Max von Sydow, James Cromwell, Rick Yune, Youki Kudoh among them – as well as some of the finest film craftspeople in the business.In late spring, the cameras turned to a Port Townsend dock, where dozens of islanders took their places as extras in what is arguably the film’s most powerful moment – the final procession of Japanese Americans toward the boat that would take them on their journey to the desert “relocation center” called Manzanar.“The worst part was, we didn’t know where we were going,” Nakao recalled.The film was largely completed more than a year before, but marketing decisions by Universal Studios delayed the film’s release. Before the Bainbridge premiere, “Snow” had been screened just a handful of times at private functions and film festivals.A “limited” release in new York and Los Angeles is set for Dec. 22, with wide release beginning Jan. 7.How “Snow Falling On Cedars” will be received elsewhere in a coming avalanche of Oscar hopefuls is up in the air. How it was received here, however, was obvious to all who attended both the premiere and the panel discussion that followed at the Commodore Center.The highlight of the latter event was a standing ovation bestowed upon surprise attendee Walt Woodward, former Review editor who served as inspiration for one of the novel’s characters.“This experience has given me some of the power and insight to look at people and see what they’re really about,” said Hisa Hayashida Matsudaira, another Bainbridge native who served as an extra.“I think this film really conveyed what that’s all about.””

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