Wednesday, October 5,2011:Cinegogue

You've probably seen this poster for the Berg Orchestra's newest site-specific film event

Cinegogue in the Synagogue

No, cinegogue is not the new codified spelling of the holy place of Jewish worship. Once you look more closely at this odd homophone/word, it will all start to make sense.

Cine stands for cinema, and gogue is what’s left of the original word. The last element which brings it together is the Berg Orchestra. By now you must have already guessed that cinegogue is a type of film/music happening in a synagogue. Or to be specific, an event that presents original silent films accompanied by live music in the unique setting of the Spanish Synagogue on Oct 10 and 11.

It will be the third time that the Spanish synagogue will open to music and film audiences for the Cinegogue Festival. The first concert screening took place in 2009 spurred by the idea of the curator of the Jewish museum, Michala Sidenberg, who wanted to promote lesser-known films of film history, and through them show Jewish culture from a new perspective. Significantly, this festival, co-organized by the Jewish Museum in Prague, also takes place in autumn when the Jewish community celebrates a number of holidays. The event is presented in cooperation with the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University, Boston.

A still from 'A Child of the Ghetto,' 1910

As in previous years, viewers in the Czech Republic will get to see silent films previously unscreened here. This year Cinegogue will start off with a short film by the founding father of American cinema D. W. Griffith. A Child of the Ghetto (USA, 1910) tells the tale of a girl living in the Jewish ghetto, wrongly accused of a crime.

The musical score to this little piece was commissioned for one of the youngest Czech composers and Berg collaborators, Jan Dušek (born in 1985).

Mr Dušek holds several awards for his works and has earned commissioned from festivals, soloists, and chamber ensembles from both home and abroad, most recently from the Nederand Blazer Ensemble.

Drama in the Paris Commune

The main film of the evening, The New Babylon (USSR, 1929), is in a way a continuation of the first film. Its directors Leonid Trauberg and Grigori Kozintsev used Griffith’s short film as inspiration. Thematically, The New Babylon follows the tragic story of two lovers in the Paris Commune, the leftist revolt in Paris of 1871. Interestingly, the music for this film came from Dmitri Shostakovich, who debuted as a film composer. Young Shostakovich actually made a living as a pianist in the cinema.

Yet before the film premiered, communist censors had shortened it and stripped it of the music. It wasn’t until 2006 that the film was reconstructed to its full length with the music. – oo

– Zuzana Sklenková

Jan Dušek will also give a talk on the process of composing the musical score for a silent film on Oct 17 in the American Center of the American Embassy. The presentation will be in Czech.

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