The Optimists | Chicago Reader

The Optimists

A family memoir that opens out into the larger currents of history, this 2001 film by Jacky and Lisa Comforty uses a treasure trove of photographs recovered from the home of Jacky's late grandmother to document the experience of Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust. While some 12,000 Jews in Bulgarian-occupied Thrace and Macedonia were deported to death camps in the summer of 1943, the Comfortys were among 50,000 Bulgarian citizens who escaped, largely through the offices of the Bulgarian Orthodox church, but also through pressure from trade unions, professional guilds, and a handful of courageous men in parliament. This rare victory of decency over depravity lies at the center of the film, though it's dwarfed by anecdotal testimony from Jewish survivors that echoes numerous other treatments of the Holocaust. In the end, this admirably broadens our knowledge of the era but doesn't much deepen it. 82 min.

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