26 June 2007 | justamoviehead
Gotten better with age
I saw this when it premiered and just re-watched it on IFC again. This is a great telling of the many possible stories about the immigrant farmworker population that came to Hawai'i to work the sugar plantations in the early 1900's. My grandparents were part of that migration; my parents were born on a Kohala plantation (Big Island) at the time setting of the movie. I moved to the Big Island over a year ago after living in California for over 30 years. I was surprised to see that many of the former cane growing lands are still undeveloped, with wild cane still growing, years after the plantations closed. I've heard many stories from my aunts and uncles who were kids growing up on the plantation. This movie helps to image those kinds of stories and memories. This story is more of an historical document than a romantic plot-driven movie. It leaves me shaking my head to read a review like ccthemovieman's. Some people just don't get it.
I didn't recall that Youki Kudoh had the starring role, with which she did an incredible job. I recall her great performances in Jim Jarmusch's "Mystery Train" and in an Australian film, co- starring with Russell Crowe, "Heaven's Burning". Tamlyn Tomita did a great job with her pidgin English, especially for someone who didn't grow up in the Islands. I had forgotten that Toshiro Mifune had a cameo role as the moving picture show narrator. And I missed the fact that Jason Scott Lee had an uncredited, non-speaking part as one of the plantation workers during the payday scene.
I was saddened to find out that the director and co-writer, Kayo Hatta, died in an accidental drowning in 2005.
There are two other excellent foreign films that mirror this cane plantation experience: "Gaijin" about the immigrant cane workers in Brazil (many of them Japanese) in the same time period; and "Sugar Cane Alley" about the cane plantation experience in Africa. The latter is still available, but "Gaijin", sadly, doesn't appear to have been shown in quite a while. Another great film about the early Asian in America experience when immigrants were more like slaves is "A Thousand Pieces of Gold". This was set over the Chinese workers' involvement in the building of the railroad, starred Rosalind Chao, Chris Cooper, Michael Paul Chan, and Dennis Dun.