ARTICLE: Is Chan Still Missing? An Essay About the Film Snow Falling on Cedars and Representations of Asian Americans in U.S. Films Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2001 Regents of the Unviersity of California
UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal

ARTICLE: Is Chan Still Missing? An Essay About the Film Snow Falling on Cedars and Representations of Asian Americans in U.S. Films

Spring, 2001

7 UCLA Asian Pac. Am. L.J. 30


Keith Aoki*


I. Introduction
In filmmaker Wayne Wang's groundbreaking 1981 film Chan is Missing, 1 he artfully depicts a search for the missing Chan, conducted by two of Chan's friends throughout San Francisco's Chinatown. The search for Chan can be seen as a search for Asian Americans in film and as a larger quest for the whereabouts of Asian America in general. At the film's end, Chan's whereabouts remain unknown, suggesting that Asian America has yet to be localized. Snow Falling on Cedars revisits this problem: As in 1981, Chan still appears to be missing in 2001.

This Essay is a meditation on Snow Falling on Cedars, directed by Scott Hicks and adapted from the best-selling novel by David Guterson. 2 This essay attempts to understand why films that implicate elements of the Asian American "experience," such as the Alien Land Laws 3 or the World War II Japanese American Internment, 4 have generally been unsatisfying, at least from the perspective of an Asian American viewer. I will first describe the film's characters and plot elements and discuss historical events undergirding the legal framework depicted in the film. I will then examine in greater depth the question of "representing" Asian America in mainstream film and how it relates to problematic "representations" of Asian Americans in U.S. legal consciousness. This will return us to the opening question of whether "Chan" is still missing.

II. The Film and a Historical Backdrop: Discrimination, Exclusion, Internment, and Dispossession as a ...
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