Thessaloniki has one of the oldest Jewish communities in Greece—but a lengthy presence doesn’t guarantee a safe one. The City and the City blends re-enactment and documentary techniques in a series of vignettes that dart between modern and period settings, black and white and saturated colour. Title cards, photographic evidence, and snippets of antisemitic proclamations punctuate our path from 1931 to the present day. As the the once thriving community starts to decline, we follow its reversal of fortune—unavoidably dwelling on the Holocaust, which saw 96% of the city’s Jews murdered.

Co-directors Syllas Tzourmerkas and Christos Passalis (last together as director and star of The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea) keep things queasy with plenty of claustrophobic close-ups, hand-held footage, and blurred edges. All the while, oppressive sound editing feels like being underwater, breaking the surface in snatches. Passalis has described it, in notably Christian terms, as a reverse Inferno, from heaven to hell. And there’s certainly little paradise here.

The message, though, is as much about accountability as confrontation: an explicitly antisemitic Greek union introduces violence; Nazis are egged on by an embittered local harpy; the city’s university expands over desecrated Jewish graves. The few minutes of runtime spared to a Jewish collaborator are telling: while he faces his comeuppance, most of the architects of brutality walk away.

In this unsettling mea culpa, the Jewish community’s loss and fear are palpable; no less is the filmmakers’ horror. It’s steeped in the dignity of victimhood, but missing a little resistance—substituting a splash of cathartic revenge and a faint suggestion of hope. It mostly stays on the right side of indulgence but at times it’s not so much telling Jewish stories as holding trauma up as a shameful mirror; that leaves an opening for powerful narratives that examine survival, too.



DIRECTORS: Christos Passalis, Syllas Tzoumerkas 

WRITERS: Christos Passalis, Syllas Tzoumerkas 

SYNOPSIS: The untold story of the life and perils of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, in six chapters.