Eddie Rosner the Subject of Ambitious Ukrainian Movie

The European jazz star of the 1930s is featured in "Smiling, Eddie Rosner's Return!"

GYDNIA, Poland -- His name may be lost on many, but for jazz aficionados, Eddie Rosner is a famous one.

The Berlin-born Jew, whose career in Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union spanned the middle decades of the 20th century, is set to make a posthumous comeback in film.

Ukrainian producer Igor Demyanenko of Kiev's Fresh Production is looking for co-producers in Poland, Germany and Russia to board Smiling, Eddie Rosner's Return! -- an ambitious project that focuses on a pivotal time in Rosner's life.

The jazz musician fled Nazi Germany at the beginning of the war and settled in Soviet Russia before disillusion with Stalin prompted him to try to escape. Caught at the border, he was sent to the Gulag for eight years, where he established a camp jazz ensemble and continued playing.

Later, at a crossroads in his creative career where he felt his talents were waning, Rosner was given permission to travel to Poland for his daughter's wedding.

His family designed a ruse to offer him an escape route to America. But Rosner refused to go, preferring to return to Russia, where he was determined to prove that he was still a great musician.

He succeeded. And when he met the great jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, the American demonstrated his respect by dubbing him "the white Armstrong." In turn, the European called Armstrong "the black Rosner."

Demyanenko said the film, in German, Polish and Russian, would feature original arrangements of Rosner's works and top jazz musicians.

The project was presented Thursday at a Polish-Ukrainian project presentation at the 38th Gydnia Film Festival.