The unique UK Premiere of the Yuri Morozov Archive (Kiev) contains some of the earliest cinematic representations of east European Jewish communities. Silent films as early as 1910 depict the Jews of Ukraine and their daily lives in both narrative and documentary forms. Many of these films have never been seen outside of Ukraine and some have not been screened for over 80 years.
Performing as klezmorim would have done in the early days of cinema, Merlin and Polina, the Sound & Light Cinematic Duo play Jewish music to accompany these silent films.
Directed by A Mietr, K Ganzer | 1910 | 9 mins
This film is considered to be the ‘birth’ of Jewish cinema, and it is based on a Jewish folk song. Rukhele’s parents make her marry rich Matteus, but she loves poor Shlomo. In two years, Rukhl has a child but she can’t forget Shlomo and so she leaves Matteus with her child to be with her lover.
Directed by A Arkatov | 1913 | 13 mins
One of the first Jewish cinema dramas about moral, religious and emotional ethics. Unable to have children, Isaak visits his Rabbi who tells his that according to Jewish law, they must divorce. Isaak can’t bear this failure of their marriage. Overcome with grief, he commits suicide. After some time Sore realises that she is pregnant, but there is no comfort for her own torment.
Jews and the Land
Directed by Abram Room | 1927 | 17 mins
This extraordinary documentary describes Soviet Russia’s attempt to create a colony of collective farms of Jews, in Crimea in the 1920s. It is the only remaining art document of this fascinating period of Jewish (and Soviet) history. The film shows Jews working the land, handling animals, driving tractors! The text was written by Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
Against Father's Will (Mabul)
Directed by Evgeny Ivanov-Barkov | 1926 | 43 mins
Based on Shalom Aleichem’s story, Flow of Blood, this film depicts the participation of Jews in the 1905 Revolution. Although of a serious nature, the film contains many comedy elements including a wonderful revolutionary argument on seder night between Kaufmann and his daughter Esfir.