It was a great privilege to be part of bringing this extraordinary documentary film and music to Australian audiences. I was involved with publicising a series of screenings held at The Backlot Studios, Southbank, in June 2014.
Producers: Anna Monea and Armadeo Marquez-Perez.
An Australian documentary that commemorates music and stories from the Vilna Ghetto in Lithuania during the Holocaust.
Directed by Rohan Spong, The Songs They Sang tells the true story of musical performances held inside the Jewish Ghetto at Vilna (now Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania) from 1941-1943. It explores the resilience of the people who created and performed the music in the face of systematic persecution and extermination by the Nazis.
The film centres around the stories of Shmerke Kaczerginski and Avrom Sutzkever, who steadfastly continued to compose poems and songs about their experiences of persecution, loss and grief, and organise public performances, despite their horrific circumstances. Their refusal to relinquish their culture brought hope to a people under siege, and offered them brief respite from fear and despair.
Filmed in Israel, France, Lithuania, America and Australia, the documentary features interviews with survivors of the Vilna Ghetto—including Melbourne-based Deborah Zuben—re-enactments of the musical performances by soprano Deborah Kayser and Vilna songs arranged by Joseph Giovinazzo.
It includes harrowing footage of a visit by survivor, Frania Bracorskajc, to Ponar forest, outside Vilna, where her family and friends used to holiday before the war. During the Holocaust, the forest became the site of the massacre of more than 20,000 men, women and children from the Vilna Ghetto.
In addition, copies of the DVD were sent on request to ABC radio, Bayside Weekly Review, Radio Southern FM, Radio SYN, Australian Arts Review, FilmInk magazine, and Arts Hub.