“Where is Anne Frank!”. A “nightmare” in cartoons

It will be difficult for anyone who has never heard your name. It will be difficult for us not to be moved by its history and to see in it that of the 6 million Jews 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” of Amsterdam, where he remained hidden for two years with his family and some friends, is translated into more than 70 languages, published in 60 different countries. Perhaps because of premature age, which on the sheets of paper disappears. Through the “adult” vision of a 13-year-old girl who watches her world crumble, who questions and seeks answers, aware of reality, but at the same time full of hope for a better future.

Over the years, there have been many ways to tell your story. In 1959, already George Stevens, had transported Anne on the screens of the seventh art, with The Diary of Anne Frank, a film inspired by the words written in the diary she left behind. After that, French, German and American filmmakers took over the newspaper to immerse themselves in their universe. More recently, in 2019, in a documentary style, Sabina Fedeli and Anna Migotto also did it.

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

Anne in cartoon Turning The Diary of Anne Frank into an animated film for young audiences shouldn’t have been easy. But the truth is that Ari Folman did. “What matters is to do everything to preserve a soul,” the director said at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where he presented the production. The director, also 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 extermination camp, in comics, in collaboration with the book illustrator and director of Israeli artistic cinema. David Polonsky.

From now on, in the cinema, it seems to us that the Israeli director wants to go further, by focusing the plot on Kitty, the imaginary friend of Anne Frank to whom the young woman confided in writing while she was hiding. with his family in “the apartment”, in Holland. . . “The idea of ​​this title, without a question mark but with an exclamation, 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? The exclamation point is used to express that,” he explained.

When contacted by the Anne Frank Fund, a foundation created by Otto Frank (the only one of the eight people hidden in the “annex” who survived the persecution of Jews during World War II), in January 1963, engaged worldwide the distribution and exploitation of the diary of Anne Frank, the Israeli filmmaker, initially refused the request. He does not see the need to adapt the Diary of Anne Frank, convinced that everything has already been done.

However, it didn’t take him long to change his mind, setting two goals: to reach a young audience who wouldn’t have read the book, and to tell the story through another point of view, other than ‘Anne, in order to “update” the book, the narration. According to Folman, it was his mother, a Holocaust survivor, who convinced him to go ahead. Upon learning that her son had been offered the opportunity to adapt the famous Journal, the former deportee, now aged 98, promised him that, if he accepted the proposal, she would stay alive for attend the premiere. Otherwise, he said, “I’d have to call the funeral directors.”

The plot and the “mission” Folman’s goal, then, is to reconnect history directly with today’s teenager, guiding those who are 15, in 2021 – Anne Frank’s age when she died – back to reality. of a lost youth such as it was and continues to be that of hundreds of thousands. others who, in the midst of wars, cannot live. The filmmaker then builds a story 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 to whom the young woman spoke in her diary, mysteriously takes shape and body in the 21st century, on a stormy day, when at the Anne-Frank museum, the window that contained the “precious” diary breaks . It is then as if the ink had spread to give life to the mute witness who “heard” Anne’s questions and fears for two years. Kitty goes in search of her friend and his family, ignoring the passage of time and the sad fate of the young woman. In this search, she crosses paths with a family of refugees, while reading the newspaper takes her back to the past of the Frank family.

Kitty keeps “traveling” between the time of the Nazi occupation, where she talks to Anne, and our present, when she tries to access 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, criticism has already been leveled at the film, precisely because of this link between the past and the present. Is it really possible to draw a parallel between the persecution of Jews during World War II and the current plight of refugees fleeing their countries where they are in danger, only to be rejected by European countries?

Anne’s Legacy Premiering in Portugal on May 5, 2022, it is perhaps one of the few films aimed at young people aged six and over that tells one of the most well-known stories of what is considered one of the most blackest in the history of Humanity. .

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

In 1940 Nazi troops invaded the Netherlands and in 1942 the persecution of Jews intensified, forcing the family to hide in an annex with other families. Anne began writing her diary on June 12, 1942, the day she turned 13. The last written passage is dated August 1, 1944, three days before the Gestapo discovered the hideout and arrested everyone. Anne finally died in February 1945, a few weeks before the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she was staying, was liberated by the British.

Of the eight people in the annex, Otto, Anne’s father, is the only one to have survived. The diary and other writings were eventually given to him after the war ended, and he decided to organize the loose-leaf and publish his daughter’s diary.

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

Maus: A Holocaust Survivor’s Story

Maus, a graphic novel (a sort of comic strip released in book form), 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, as told by him -even to his sons, cartoonist Art Spiegelman.

The story told by Vladek is set in the narrative past, which begins in the mid-1930s and continues until the end of the Holocaust in 1945. In the comics, Jews are drawn as mice and Nazis take on the features of cats; non-Jewish Poles are pigs and Americans are dogs.

This use of postmodern techniques such as “fable imagery”, or the absence of color, ended up giving it, according to many critics, an “incisive and disturbing” spirit, which “shows the brutality of the catastrophe of the Holocaust “. The book is considered a classic of contemporary comics.

In 1992 it won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for American Literature, given to individuals who do outstanding work in journalism, literature and music composition – and since its launch it has been the subject of studies and analyzes by specialists. from different fields – from history to literature, from arts to psychology.

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