It Kaboom animation festival opened in Amsterdam on Wednesday with a film that, after its premiere in Cannes last year, had been awaited for some time. Where is Anne Frank, an international production (with a Dutch contribution) by the Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman. An animated film that takes Anne Frank’s famous diary to a new level.
It’s a year in the future. In the first scene, a bleak wind blows across the Amsterdam canal, where a chilling row of tourists waits for the door of the Anne Frank House to open. At that moment, something miraculous happens inside. A display case bursts open and the figure of Kitty rises from the ink of the famous diary. Anne’s imaginary friend is suddenly no longer imaginary. She takes the book, embarks on a search through Amsterdam for Anne, and befriends Awa, a young refugee from Africa. At the same time, this creative and imaginative animation also looks back to the past, where scenes from the world of Anne and her family in hiding come to life.
Director Ari Folman, who rose to fame with Walz With Bashir, should have been at the opening of Kaboom himself, but a positive corona test put an end to his trip to Amsterdam. Fortunately, he feels well enough for zoom interviews from his home near Tel Aviv. That way I can still talk to him.
I’m curious when he first read Anne Frank’s diary.
“I was fourteen, it was compulsory material at school in Israel. I know, but I don’t really remember. I grew up in a family of Holocaust survivors. When I was young I heard so much about the horrible concentration camps. Anne Frank was one of many stories and her last months, in the camps, do not appear in the diary either. Well in the movie.”
For young audience
The Anne Frank Fund asked you to make this film?
“Yes, they approached me, but I declined at first, thinking that everything was already done. But as a father of a teenager, I started reading the book again and was amazed at how well it was written. By a girl of thirteen! Incredible. So then I started toying with the idea of doing it anyway. And how that should be.”
Was it supposed to be an animated film?
“Yes, I set a few conditions. In the first place, it had to be an animated film for children from the age of ten. The last seven months of Anne Frank also had to be included. That ending of Anne was initially also in the last act of The Diary of Anne Frankthe 1959 film, but when Otto Frank saw at a test screening how shocked the public was at the Bergen-Belsen footage, he asked the producers to remove it.”
“But I thought it was important. And finally the connection between past and present. To do justice to Otto Frank’s legacy and to the Anne Frank Fund, we must use this story to create compassion and empathy for children in war zones around the world.”
A little more about that animation, I think you’re after Walz With Bashir and The Congress had announced that they no longer wanted to make animated films. What made you change your mind?
Laughing: “You know, I’m not going to say that again. I may think it, but I don’t say it out loud anymore.”
“I think I’m addicted to animation. On the great creative side of it, because you can make anything that comes to your mind, and maybe also on the crazy difficulties that making an animated film can entail.”
But why animation in this case?
“To reach a young audience. To ensure that the subject appeals to them. Very important.”
I tell him that I think it will also appeal to adults. To which Folman asks me if I think the film will do well in the Netherlands. Hard to say, but I expect it. In any case, the distributor has already booked many school performances.
But then about the set-up of the film, are there more sides to it that are aimed at young audiences?
“It has the structure of a fairy tale,” explains Folman. “Something magical already happens in the first scene. From the diary’s ink, Kitty miraculously comes to life. It’s classic kids’ movie material. For example, there are all kinds of rules, such as that Kitty is invisible to visitors in the Anne Frank House. Only Anne can see her imaginary friend. And the diary is Kitty’s heart. If it gets too far away, she disappears again.”
She cannot exist without the diary.
“And then there’s Kitty as Anne’s alter ego. She is everything Anne cannot be at that moment, both in appearance and in the things she does.”
Is it also a kind of homage to Anne’s imagination?
“Specifically. See, one of my goals was to give real meaning to the icon, the symbol that Anne has become. Anne Frank was a dream character for a screenwriter. She was sensible, smart, but also funny and sometimes very mean, very human, with her own problems and issues, classic teenage stuff with her mother and with boys who have crushes on her. We need to tear down that statue that Anne Frank has become to make her real, so that she opens the hearts of everyone who sees her on screen.”
Hollywood and Greek Mythology
A coming of age story.
“It’s mainly a coming of age story. It’s set during the Holocaust, but it’s about the friendship between two girls in a coming-of-age drama.”
Without too many spoilers, can you tell us about the last part of the movie where you show the camp as a world from Greek mythology?
“As I said, I was looking for a way to show Anne’s last seven months. I couldn’t show it as it really was, because I don’t believe you can. Not in an animated film, nor in a feature film. I don’t believe it’s possible.”
“So I was looking for a way to crack that problem. Anne Frank has two passions. Hollywood actors of the thirties and forties, and Greek mythology. And when you see the underworld of Greek mythology, it has a lot in common with the methods of the Nazis. Here the trains that take the Jews to the concentration camps, there the ferries. Selections here, selections there. Dogs here, dogs there. So while we hear on the soundtrack how someone reads the words from Otto Frank’s book, we see that Greek underworld.”
It might even make the story more universal.
“I think so, a more accessible story too.”
And you connect it to the situation of refugees. Were you not afraid of criticism of a possible comparison of the Holocaust with contemporary refugees?
Streng: “There is no comparison at all, because that is simply not possible. I expected more criticism, to be honest. But refugees in Amsterdam, that has nothing to do with concentration camps. I don’t see any possible comparison here.”
No, but I suppose there was a reason to include this refugee story in the film.
“Someone said to me after a screening: ‘The Jews no longer had the privilege of being refugees, they were being slaughtered.’ So I don’t think there is a comparison. Just as there is no sensible way to compare the genocide of one people with the genocide of another people.”
“But I do think that a child in a war zone is a child in a war zone, that is a hard fact. There is no difference between a child whose home has been bombed in Ukraine and a child in Mali who has no idea who attacked his village. They both have to flee. One with mother to the border, the other to the north to eventually cross the Mediterranean Sea. No difference!”
But what was the reason for adding this theme?
“Otto Frank’s legacy was one reason. By ensuring that 70 million copies of her diary were sold, he fulfilled a dream of his daughter. He donated all that money—he lived in a one-bedroom apartment all his life—to non-profit organizations that help children in war zones. For that he founded the Fund that approached me for the film. Because I firmly believe in their purpose, I thought it was important to spread their message. Creating compassion, tolerance and empathy to support the children is a respectable goal of the film. Even if I have to work for it for eight years.”
Because that’s how long the production took.
With some self-mockery: “Now another ninth year of talking about the film!”
I also understand that the film is part of a wider project, with two comic books and an educational offering.
“Yes, that’s all there. Anne Frank’s Diary (The back house) as a comic book was a way to convince distributors that we could make a movie. The second comic book (Where is Anne Frank) is a by-product of the film, based on the screenplay. The first, which came out in 2018, is the original diary in comic form.”
“The educational material produced by the Fund is a book for teachers and students. The latter learn the story of Anne Frank, the history of the Jews in the Netherlands during the war, and how this relates to contemporary crises. I think the Fund has done a fantastic job, and it’s being made available to schools for free. In addition, you can still see the film, beautiful.”
Have you already experienced performances with a young audience? How were the reactions?
“These were the best screenings I have attended, even better than the beautiful premiere in Cannes. Children from about 10 to 12 years old understand the film completely, they are fantastic. They react very real and emotional. A tear is shed when Kitty arrives at the sisters’ grave in Bergen-Belsen.”
The film takes place a year in the future, are you also a bit of a SF enthusiast?
“I am mainly a Sci-Fi fan! For the rest, there are only details…”
Good to know
Following the festival Where is Anne Frank in cinemas from April 7. The movie-based comic book Where is Anne Frank’s diary by Ari Folman and Lena Guberman is published by Prometheus and was released on March 9. In collaboration with Eye Education, Cinéart publishes the teaching package for Dutch schools, available from about mid-April.
We would like to thank the author of this short article for this remarkable content
Ari Folman on Kaboom opening Where is Anne Frank – ode to Anne’s imagination
Check out our social media profiles as well as other pages that are related to them.https://pyzal.com/related-pages/