The Dragon Painter is a rare Hollywood silent-era film to feature an almost entirely Asian cast, including Japanese lead Sessue Hayakawa, who became a bona fide superstar after his turn in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Cheat. Produced by Hayakawa’s production company, outdoor scenes were shot on location in California’s spectacular Yosemite National Park. Coronado, California’s Japanese Tea Garden also served as a location!
SFSFF RESTORATION! 35mm print from the 2023 4K digital restoration by San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Eye Filmmuseum, and George Eastman Museum. The film was photochemically restored by AFI in 1988. However, this new restoration features recently discovered additional footage located at Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam that greatly enhances the storyline of Ume-Ko, portrayed by Hayakawa’s real-life wife Tsuru Aoki. Restoring the film today with modern restoration tools enabled an additional level of cleaning and repair resulting in a final version that more closely resembles the original appearance.
Live music by the Masaru Koga Ensemble
New York based multi-instrumentalist Masaru Koga, or Mas, as most would call him, developed his worldview at an early age. Soon after his birth in Chiba Japan, his family relocated to the US due to his father’s work, and he spent his adolescent years moving around multiple times. By the time he graduated high school, he had lived in three countries and nine different cities. Mas took an interest in music as a young child, especially in jazz. At 11 years old he started learning the trumpet and joined the school band. After another move to Munich, he had a chance to borrow an alto saxophone—and that changed his life. At 15, he began teaching himself with a magazine cutout of a fingering chart and CDs and cassettes of his favorite music. With an international upbringing, it was fitting that he found himself at San Jose State University in the Improvised Music Studies department, where he intensively studied and explored musical tradition from around the world. Fueled with a passion for cross-cultural experience, Mas started to incorporate the Japanese shakuhachi into his music, and began his apprenticeship with master shakuhachi artist Masayuki Koga. Mas’s sound encompasses the many cultural traditions he’s been touched by, and the worldview developed though diverse life experiences. He aims to create music that respects traditions and goes beyond styles and idioms to ultimately help diminish all forms of social boundaries. For The Dragon Painter, Mas will play saxophone, shakuhachi, and shaku-lute. He will be joined by Andrew Jamiesen on piano, Lewis Patzner on cello, Frank Bockius on percussion, and Stephen Horne on flute.
Image credit: Marissa Katarina Bergmann