The Yuri Morozov film collection (Kiev) contains some of the earliest cinematic representations of east European Jewish communities and more. Black and White silent films as early as 1910 depict the Jews of Ukraine and their daily lives in both narrative and documentary forms. The films cover many aspects of Jewish interest, from Biblical times to modern life at the beginning of the Soviet Era. Many of these films have never been seen outside of Ukraine and some have not been screened for over 80 years.
Merlin and Polina Shepherd represent two nations although their families come from very close geographical locations. At the end of the 19th Century, Merlin’s great-grandparents emigrated from Ukraine and Romania to escape pogroms and seek a better world in the west. Polina’s grandparents escaped from the Sho’ah (Holocaust) by fleeing from Kiev/Odessa to Siberia. The different and yet vital sustenance of his western Jewish upbringing and her eastern one have brought them to a unique closeness in musical, creative and spiritual terms.
Performing as Jewish musicians would have done in the early days of cinema, Merlin and Polina Shepherd play Jewish music to accompany these silent films. Their playing acts as the perfect foil for these amazing historic documents. With their deep training, musical experience and by using tradition musical pieces and stylistically accurate new compositions, these films are magically brought back to life almost a century after their first screenings.
By transportation backwards in time with this historically accurate visual and aural experience, these two world-class musicians bring their audiences forward to a deeper understanding of former and present day Yiddishkeit.