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The Optimists

Directed by Jacky Comforty

USA | 83 minutes | 2001

Bulgarian, English, Hebrew with English subtitles

This fascinating documentary tells the little-known story of how Bulgaria kept its mostly Sephardic Jewish community intact during World War II. Members of director Jacky Comforty’s family were photographers in Bulgaria at a time when there were few cameras there. As a result, he has ample, beautiful documentation that is unavailable from other sources. The filmmaker, whose family was saved, intersperses personal testimony with scenic footage of contemporary Bulgaria and striking archival images. His own family stories are jumping-off points to explore broader aspects of the rescue of the Jews and of Sephardic culture. The vast majority of Bulgaria's 50,000 Jews survived, and the film offers several possible explanations for why that country was unique in preventing deportation. One reason may be a rich, peaceful, ancient and complex history of Christian, Jewish and Muslim coexistence. The Optimists gets its name from a popular Bulgarian Jazz band. Because of its cultural diversity and spirit of solidarity, the band provides a perfect metaphor for how bonds of friendship and cooperation can transcend even the most viciously divisive power.
Director Jacky Comforty
Countries of Production USA
Year of Presentation 2001
Language(s) Bulgarian, English, Hebrew with English subtitles
Premiere Status
Runtime 83 minutes
Principal Cast Jacky Comforty, Boris Kharalampiev, Dimiter Peshev, Rubin Dimitrov, Anton Kirilov
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