The Oath of the SwordDirected by Frank Shaw
Cast: Miss Hisa Numa, Tomi Morri, Yutaka Abe
Recently rediscovered, the 1914 silent film THE OATH OF THE SWORD is the oldest-known film by an Asian American production company. And what a production it is. Beginning in Japan, it follows Masao, who leaves behind his lover to study at Berkeley, where he becomes a star athlete and man about campus. However, trouble starts to follow, culminating in a bicoastal melodramatic climax as shattering as it is timeless.
With THE OATH OF THE SWORD, we can reimagine the beginnings of Asian American cinema, not as Charlie Chan and Fu Manchu, or dragon ladies and The Good Earth. Blazing the way for Sessue Hayakawa and Marion Wong to come is a film that asserted that Asians in America can be dashing, flawed, insecure, angry, and romantic, and that proved that independent studios like the Japanese American Film Company were producing dramas as sweeping as any other.
Re-emerging in 2023, after over a century of archival hibernation, THE OATH OF THE SWORD is a revelation.
– Brian Hu
SDAFF’s screening of THE OATH OF THE SWORD will feature live musical accompaniment by Mathew Rakers, followed by a discussion with film historian Denise Khor, who rediscovered the film.
Screening Sponsor: Japanese American Citizens League (JACL).