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A new live music score sparks up 100-year-old movie ‘The Dragon Painter’

It’s opening night at the 10th annual Philly Asian American Film Festival.

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via PAAFF
Billy Penn statue

— via Philly Asian American Film Festival

The opening night event at the 10th annual Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (which runs Nov. 9-19) features a 100-year-old classic silent film called “The Dragon Painter.” To honor the legacy of this groundbreaking movie, PAAFF has commissioned a new original score to be performed live by Japanese American singer/songwriter Goh Nakamura.

Starring Japanese immigrant Sessue Hayakawa, the early Hollywood silent film is a fantasy romance about love and creative inspiration. Tatsu (Hayakawa) is a reclusive painter who lives in the mountains, painting images of the dragon princess he loved in another life. Tatsu comes to believe the daughter of a wealthy art collector is his lost princess, but as he finds happiness in love, his art begins to suffer.

In his prime ,Hayakawa was as popular as Charlie Chaplin, as rich as Douglas Fairbanks, and to this day the only Asian American to own his own Hollywood studio.

Although set in Japan, the film was shot on location in Yosemite National Park and stars a predominantly Japanese American cast, including Hayakawa’s wife Tsuru Aoki. Produced by Hayakawa’s own Haworth Pictures, “The Dragon Painter” deliberately provides an authentic perspective on Japanese culture that counters the dominant narrative of stereotypes, violence and melodramatic conflict expected in so-called “Oriental” films of the period. It is considered to be one of the first Asian American films in history.

The showing begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, and $10 tickets are available here. Following a brief Q&A with Goh, attendees will enjoy the opening night reception featuring complimentary food and beverage.

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