This documentary tells the life story and music of Niko Nissimov and his Jewish friends from the Bulgarian Jazz band, The Optimists. The movie charts their rise to stardom as a band in late 1930s Bulgaria. The beginning of WWII changed everything for them as Bulgaria joined the Axis powers. Anti-Jewish laws and restrictions brought the band to a halt. All men were drafted to slave labor camps, and the entire community was on the verge of extinction. Niko was saved by his friends at the last minute from a transport destined for the death camp of Treblinka.
This testimony to friendship and the human spirit is told by Niko Nissimov, his brother Harry Nissimov, and his band mate, David Eskin. The movie is layered with original music recordings of The Optimists. The private photo albums and archival footage help illustrate this amazing story of adventure, creativity, and endless optimism in the face of impossible odds.
Internationally acclaimed director Jacky Comforty has hand-crafted this first part of a new trilogy of photo biographies about Bulgarian Jewish life in the 20th Century. Balkan Jazz is his third full-length documentary related to life and survival in Nazi Europe.
His previous films, The Optimists (www.theoptimists.com) and In the Shadow of Memory merited important U.S. and international awards.
Balkan Jazz is 75 minutes long, will be released in the USA in early 2016.