Two of 2003's most prominent year-end movie releases are mid-19th-century stories very firmly rooted in place. Yet The Last Samurai, which is set in Japan at the moment when the island nation was opening to the West, was largely shot in New Zealand. And Cold Mountain, from novelist Charles Frazier's best-selling evocation of Civil War-era Blue Ridge Mountain life, was mostly filmed in Romania's Transylvanian region, of all places. The reasons for each case of geographical impersonation range ...

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