The Oath of the Sword

The Oath of the Sword

Image courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

Presented by the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)

Made by the Los Angeles–based Japanese American Film Company, The Oath of the Sword, recently discovered at the George Eastman Museum by scholar Denise Khor, is considered the earliest known Asian American film production. Leaving his native Japan to study at UC Berkeley, Masao also leaves behind his lover Hisa, who is caring for her ailing father. As Masao becomes an athletic star at Berkeley, Hisa languishes in Japan; their reunion four years later, during which time Hisa has given birth to another man’s child, ends in tragedy. Remarkable location photography lends an air of realism to this once-lost treasure, seeing its world premiere at the Academy Museum and shown with live musical accompaniment by pianist, improviser, and composer Naomi Nakanishi.

Following the film, Renee Tajima-Peña, Professor of Asian American Studies at UCLA, will moderate a panel discussion with Stephen Gong, Executive Director of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM); Karen L. Ishizuka, Chief Curator at JANM; and Denise Khor, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies and Visual Studies at Northeastern University.

DIRECTED BY: Frank Shaw. WITH: Tomi Morri, Miss Hisa Numa, Yutaka Abe. 1914. 31 min. USA. Tinted, B&W. Silent. English intertitles. DCP. Restored by the Japanese American National Museum and George Eastman Museum. Funded by the National Film Preservation Foundation. Digital restoration from a 35mm nitrate print and 35mm safety negative from the George Eastman Museum collection was done at Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services and at Colorlab.

Academy Museum film programming generously funded by the Richard Roth Foundation. 

Co-sponsored by Northeastern’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities and the College of Art, Media, and Design.

Theater accessibility accommodations available upon request. Learn more about our accessibility initiatives.

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