The Songs They Sang: A musical narrative of the Vilna Ghetto

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Melbourne audiences and secondary school students will have a rare opportunity to view The Songs They Sang, 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.

The special screenings coincide with the launch of an educational resource for secondary school teachers, which provides an historical accompaniment to the documentary and its soundtrack. It will be an important resource for Victorian students, who are required to study the Holocaust as part of the history curriculum.


Film:  The Songs They Sang: A musical narrative of the Vilna Ghetto

Description:  Australian documentary, English-speaking and foreign-language with subtitles; 94 minutes

Venue:  The Backlot Studios, 65 Haig Street, Southbank

Dates: Wednesday 11th June to Saturday 28th June 2014

Times:  Weekdays: 10.30am Wednesday 11th – Wednesday 25th June inclusive

Two weekend evening sessions: 7.30pm Saturday 21th and Saturday 28th June.

Ticket prices:  $16 adult / $10 student / $12 concession (health card & seniors). Teachers accompanying students admitted free.

For Tickets:


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