‘The City Without Jews,’ a 1924 satire, will play with live score
A scene from the Austrian silent film, “The City Without Jews,” a 1924 satire that will be shown at Epsilon Spires with live musical accompaniment on Sept. 22.

‘The City Without Jews,’ a 1924 satire, will play with live score

BRATTLEBORO — On Thursday, Sept. 22, Epsilon Spires will present the film The City Without Jews (1924) with a live soundtrack performed by klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals and the pianist and silent film accompanist Donald Sosin.

Based on a bestselling dystopian novel of the same name, The City Without Jews is set in a fictional version of Vienna in the decade following World War I. The new leader of the government believes that the Jewish population has become a threat to the prosperity of the city and orders all Jews to evacuate, unwittingly causing disastrous financial and cultural decline.

“Back when The City Without Jews was made, we had a very similar situation to the one we are in now,” Nikolaus Wostry, director of collections at the Austrian Film Archive, told The Guardian in an interview about the film. He compares the influx of Jewish refugees in Europe and subsequent rise of antisemitism and the Nazi party to the increasing popularity of far-right political candidates in the wake of global unrest and migration today.

“The message we want to send out is that this is not just a film about the past, but an anti-Nazi statement,” Wostry says.

Organizers say The City Without Jews was shown in several countries between its release in 1924, when Nazism was still banned, and its final screening in 1933, when showing the film had become a politically rebellious act against the increasingly powerful Nazi party.

All copies of the film were thought to have been destroyed, but a badly damaged and incomplete version was found in 1991 in the Nederlands Filmmuseum. This was the only print of The City Without Jews until a full, nearly pristine copy was discovered by a collector at a Paris flea market in 2015.

After raising over $100,000 in a crowd-funding campaign for its restoration, the Austrian Film Archive released this complete version in 2018, which will now be shown in Brattleboro for the first time.

The score that will be performed live at Epsilon Spires was co-composed by Svigals and Sosin.

Svigals is a founding member of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, and has collaborated with violinist Itzhak Perlman, the Kronos Quartet, the poet Allen Ginsburg, and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

Since 1971, Sosin has performed his silent film music at venues such as Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and his recorded soundtracks have appeared with films released by the Criterion Collection and shown on Turner Classic Movies.

Doors open for the event at 8 p.m., and the film will begin shortly after 8:30. In order to avoid disrupting the program, audience members are advised to arrive within that window of time to enjoy a refreshment, view the Kristoffer Ørum exhibit, “Mundane Monsters,” in the gallery of Epsilon Spires, and choose their seats.

Tickets for the event are $20 at epsilonspires.org. Sliding-scale tickets are available for those experiencing financial hardship.

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