“Où est Anne Frank!”. A “Nightmare” in Cartoons

It will be difficult that someone has never heard your name. It will be difficult for us not to be moved by its history and in it we see that of 6 million Jews who were killed at the hands of Nazi soldiers, during the Second World War (1939-1945).

His diary, found by his father, Otto Frank, in the “secret hiding place” in Amsterdam, where he remained in hiding for two years with his family and some friends, is translated into more than 70 languages, published in 60 different countries. Maybe because of the premature age that, on the sheets of paper, disappears. Through the “adult” view of a 13-year-old girl who watches her world crumble, which she questions and seeks answers, aware of reality, but at the same time hopeful for a better future.

Over the years, there have been many ways to tell its story. In 1959, George Stevens, already, had transported Anne to the screens of the seventh art, with The Diary of Anne Frank, a film inspired by the words written in the diary that he left. After that, French, German and American directors revisited the diary to dive back into her universe. More recently, in 2019, in documentary style, Sabina Fedeli and Anna Migotto also did so.

As a tribute to what would have been her 90th birthday, actress Helen Mirren retells the story of Anne Frank through the pages of her notebook, exploring in parallel the fate of five concentration camp survivors – lives ravaged by circumstances so similar but whose outcomes could not be more different. But how can you tell such a dramatic and hard story to children?

anne in cartoon Turning Anne Frank’s Diary into an animated film for younger audiences couldn’t have been easy. But the truth is that Ari Folman did it. “What matters is doing everything possible to preserve a soul”, said the director at the Cannes Film Festival this year, where he presented the production. The director of the film Waltz with Bachir (2008), had already adapted the tragic story of this young Jewish woman who died in 1945 in the Bergen-Belsen death camp, for comics, in collaboration with the book illustrator and director of Israeli artistic cinema David Polonski.

Now, in cinema, it seems that the Israeli director wants to go further, by focusing the plot on Kitty, Anne Frank’s imaginary friend to whom the young woman confided in writing while hiding with her family in the “apartment” in Holland . “The idea of ​​this title, without a question mark but with an exclamation mark, is to state an observation”, explained the filmmaker. “Where is Anne Frank today, in a world where children continue to be victims of war, as if nothing has changed since then? The exclamation point is used to express just that”, he clarified.

When he was contacted by the Anne Frank Fonds, a foundation created by Otto Frank (the only one of the eight people hidden in the “annex” who survived the persecution of the Jews during the Second World War), in January 1963, committed to the worldwide distribution and exploitation of the Diary of Anne Frank, the Israeli filmmaker, initially turned down the request. The latter saw no need to adapt Anne Frank’s Diary, convinced that everything had been done before.

However, it didn’t take long before he changed his mind by establishing two objectives: addressing a young audience who would not have read the book and telling the story through another vision, other than Anne, in order to “update” the narration. According to Folman, it was his mother, a Holocaust survivor, who convinced him to come forward. Upon learning that her son was offered the opportunity to adapt the famous Diary, the ex-deportee, now 98 years old, promised him that, if she accepted the proposal, she would live to watch the premiere. Otherwise, she claimed, “I would have had to call the funeral directors.”

The plot and the “mission” Folman’s objective is, therefore, to reconnect the story directly with the current teenager, guiding those who are 15 years old, in 2021 – Anne Frank’s age when she died – to the reality of a lost youth as it was and continues to be. that of hundreds of thousands of others who, in the midst of wars, cannot live it. The filmmaker then constructed a narrative that mixes fiction and biography, establishing a parallel between Anne’s story and the current situation of migrants in the European Union.

Kitty, the imaginary friend the young woman addressed in her diary, mysteriously takes shape and body in the 21st century, on a stormy day, when at the Anne-Frank Museum, the display case containing the “precious” diary shatters. It is then as if the ink spreads to bring to life the silent witness who “heard” Anne’s questions and fears for two years. Kitty goes in search of her friend and family, unaware of the passage of time and the young girl’s sad fate. In this search, she crosses paths with a refugee family, while reading the diary takes her back to the Frank family’s past.

Kitty keeps “traveling” between the time of the Nazi occupation, when she talks to Anne, and our present, a time where she tries to get to the circumstances of her murder in the camps. In Amsterdam, the imaginary friend comes into contact with refugees through a boy she ends up meeting.

But after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, there have already been some criticisms leveled at the film, precisely because of this connection between the past and the present. Is it really possible to draw a parallel between the persecution of Jews during the Second World War and the current fate of refugees who flee their countries where they are in danger, only to be rejected by European countries?

Anne’s Legacy Premiering in Portugal on May 5, 2022, this is perhaps one of the few films aimed at young people aged six and over that tells one of the best-known stories of what is considered one of the “darkest” periods in the history of mankind. .

Kitty is amazed at all the places she reads her friend’s name: on bridges, schools, museums, theaters, etc. Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 12, 1929, into a Jewish family that, in 1934, was forced to flee to Holland.

In 1940, Nazi troops invaded Holland and in 1942 intensified the persecution of Jews, which forced the family to hide in an annexe, with other families. Anne started writing her diary on June 12, 1942, the day she turned 13. The last written entry is dated August 1, 1944, three days before the Gestapo discovered the hiding place and arrested everyone there. Anne ended up dying in February 1945, a few weeks before the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she was, was liberated by the British.

Of the eight people in the annex, Otto, Anne’s father, was the only one who survived. The diary and other writings ended up being delivered to him after the end of the war and he decided to organize the loose pages and publish his daughter’s diary.

Folman questions what our democracies have learned from his testimony, believing that “we quickly forget”, and can observe it in the way “refugees are treated” today. As he mentioned, Òu est Anne Frank! without a question mark, but with an exclamation point, because the film is not looking for her, he really wants to “bring her back to life”.

Maus: A Holocaust Survivor’s Story

Maus, a graphic novel (type of comic released in book format), published in two parts, the first in 1986 and the second in 1991, tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew who survived Auschwitz, narrated by himself to his son , cartoonist Art Spiegelman.

The story that Vladek tells unfolds in the narrative past, which begins in the mid-1930s and continues until the end of the Holocaust in 1945. In the strips, Jews are drawn as mice and Nazis are given the features of cats; non-Jewish Poles are pigs and Americans are dogs.

This use of post-modernist techniques such as “fable imagery”, or the absence of color, ended up earning him, according to many critics, an “incisive and disturbing” spirit, which “evidences the brutality of the Holocaust catastrophe”. The book is considered a contemporary comic book classic.

In 1992, it won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for American Literature, given to people who carry out excellent work in the field of journalism, literature and musical composition – and, since it was launched, it has been the subject of studies and analyzes by specialists from different areas – from history, to literature, from the arts to psychology.

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“Où est Anne Frank!”. A “Nightmare” in Cartoons

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