Anne Frank’s diary comes to life in new animated film


A disoriented teenager lies on Anne Frank’s bed as people crowd the family home. But these people are not Nazis; they are modern day tourists. And the girl on the bed is not Anne, but Kitty – the imaginary friend to whom she sent her now world famous diary.

Magically resurrected from the page and transported to modern Europe, Kitty is dismayed at how society has fetishized her best friend Anne, peddling cheap wares and endless inaccurate reinterpretations of her words. Finally, she takes it upon herself to reclaim Anne’s inheritance, by whatever means necessary.

It’s the daring reinvention of Anne Frank’s story that can be found in the new animated film “Where’s Anne Frank”, which premiered last week at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was directed by acclaimed Israeli director Ari Folman, best known for his 2008 Oscar-nominated hybrid animated documentary “Waltz With Bashir,” about the lasting memories of the First Lebanon War in Israel. Now, Folman has taken on what many see as the sacred text of the Holocaust – rewriting Anne Frank in order to interpret her true enduring legacy.

Produced in partnership with the Anne Frank Fund, the Swiss association founded by Anne’s father, Otto, which owns the copyright to his newspaper, the film is aimed at a younger audience. But it also enters surprising political territory, as Kitty comes to understand Europe’s current migration crisis and begins to consciously connect the continent’s millions of asylum seekers to Anne’s story.

“The main aim of the film is to help today’s young audience connect with the Anne Frank story in the same way that previous generations connected with the newspaper,” said Yves Kugelmann, member of the Board of Directors of the Fund and key producer of the film, at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Frankly, that’s mainly how I watch the film. If this goal is achieved, then it is a success.

A fiery redhead with rosy cheekbones, Kitty isn’t just a silent observer – she’s speaking out loud about her best friend’s rampant marketing as a brand.

“Anne didn’t write this diary so you can love it,” she told Dutch police in a climactic scene, following an incident in which she heckles a staging of the newspaper. “Or give his name to bridges, schools, theaters and stations. “

Kitty also begins dating a boy who pickpockets tourists at Anne Frank’s house and later becomes a pro-immigration activist.

As he did with “Bashir,” Folman mixes spectacular fantasy footage with factual narrative. Kitty’s 2021 journey through Amsterdam and a meticulously detailed Anne Frank house are paired with allusions to Greek mythology and the Roman Empire, both of which fascinated Anne. In flashbacks, the Nazis are portrayed as robot-like ghouls wearing death masks, patrolling the streets of Amsterdam without hatred or pity for the people they hunt and victimize – a reference to how Anne she herself never met a Nazi before her capture and wrote about how she struggled to visualize them.

Folman, who declined a pre-arranged interview with JTA, told The Hollywood Reporter that his own mother, a Holocaust survivor from Lodz, Poland, was eager for him to take on the project.

“I actually didn’t want to do it at all,” Folman said. “I thought there were too many adaptations and that she was too iconic. But I reread the diary, the first time since I was a teenager, and I also went to visit my mother – both of my parents were Holocaust survivors. She said, ‘Look, we never interfered with your choices, but if you don’t take this project, I’ll die over the weekend, you can come and pick up my body on Sunday. if you do, I will stay until the premiere.

Another twist that Folman learned while researching for the project: her parents arrived in Auschwitz the same week as Anne, Otto and Edith’s parents.

While Kitty continually denounces the endless modern reinterpretations of Anne’s story that exist to bolster her status as a symbol rather than a person, one could argue that the movie she appears in is another such effort, keen to draw simplistic parallels between the Holocaust and the modern refugee crisis.

The film differs from the text in other respects as well: although Anne’s diary contains a lot of humor, the film has at least one distressed character in every scene, be it in today’s Amsterdam. or during the Holocaust. “Where’s Anne Frank” also alleges, without evidence, that Auguste van Pels, who also went into hiding with the Franks, hid an expensive vase in the house, possibly to avoid having to sell it for himself. feed.

But then Folman’s vision for the film was never to simply relay the facts of history.

“I was looking for a new dimension, a new way to tell the story,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “And I tried to figure out how to bring it to the youngest audience possible. And when you start a movie with a miracle, like with this creation of Kitty, you build the fairy tale.

In addition to the film, Folman also collaborated with the Anne Frank Fund on a graphic novel adaptation of Journal d’Anne, illustrated by David Polonsky and published in 2017. The film and the book will be part of a new educational kit that the Fund will share with hundreds of schools around the world to which it provides Holocaust education programs and materials.

In accordance with the association’s charter and Otto Frank’s wishes that none of the Fund’s projects be commercial, proceeds from the film will be donated to support the Fund’s work, which includes many educational programs and projects with the UNICEF, the United Nations agency for child welfare, said Kugelmann.

In Kitty, the project hopes it has found its new ambassador with a younger generation, straight out of the 80s pages of Anne’s diary.


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