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Where is Anne Frank

Photo courtesy Purple Whale Films

SIFF 2024: ‘Where is Anne Frank?’ review

An elegant, heartfelt reimagining of a world-renowned diary for today's youth

Anne Frank is everywhere in Amsterdam. There’s an Anne Frank Theater, an Ann Frank Bridge, an Anne Frank School, an Anne Frank House, Anne Frank statues. Everyone knows the story of Anne, the Jewish teenager who wrote a diary about living in hiding with her family before she perished in a German concentration camp.

But is Amsterdam today living the message of Anne’s renowned diary (“The Diary of a Young Girl“) as it sets the wheels in motion to deport refugees back to their war-torn home countries? 

That’s the question at the heart of Israeli director Ari Folman’s newest animation “Where is Anne Franks? The film reimagines the diary and Frank’s fuller story through the eyes of Kitty, the imaginary friend she wrote it to. It is not only visually breathtaking and heartfelt but clear in its takeaway: We must all walk Anne Frank’s talk. That Folman, a son of Auschwitz concentration camp survivors, has poured himself into this emotionally weighty topic is no surprise given Folman’s previous animated wonders, including  2008’s Waltz With Bashir, a film about coming to terms with trauma. 

Where is anne frank

Photo courtesy Purple Whale Films

Who should watch

SIFF placed “Where is Anne Frank” in its Futurewave line-up, a group of films curated with viewers ages 13 to 21 in mind. Still, given the level of access that kids have to the news these days and the stress many feel about wars and other crises around the globe, I think “Where is Anne Frank?” could lead to meaningful and helpful parent-child conversations about WWII, loss, fear, and action with kids ages 10 and up—if watched with a parent. Note that this film is presented with English subtitles, so it is best for strong readers. 

Synopsis

Kitty, the made-up girl Anne writes to, leaps to life from the pages of Anne’s glass-encased diary as the question of deportation in current times comes to the fore in the city of Amsterdam. As the adventure begins, Kitty is unaware of what year it is and what ultimately happened to Anne and her sister Margot. She believes that if she is alive, Anne must be also. Removing the diary from its haloed place at Anne Frank House, Kitty uses it to jog her memories of Anne’s story, travel back in time, and discover her friend’s destiny. 

Kitty is invisible to visitors inside the house, now one of the most famous museums in Amsterdam. Outside she’s not. Slinking past posters offering rewards for the stolen diary, she befriends young refugees, some of the city’s poorest and most marginalized residents. Folman lets Kitty make the connection between Jewish people being trained off to death camps and refugees being deported to countries where their lives may be at stake. However, the film is careful not to equate or make a one-to-one comparison between these human rights violations. 

Still, point taken.

Where is anne frank

Photo courtesy Purple Whale Films

Eventually, Kitty learns of Anne’s fate (she, her sister, and others who lived in hiding in Amsterdam died in German concentration camps) by reading the account of Otto Frank, Anne’s father. A section here moves to visions of the River Styx in the underworld, which is likely to lose younger viewers but is visually interesting. 

While learning Anne’s fate, Kitty walks through most of Anne’s diary’s central memories, including her annoyance with fellow hideaways, her worry about impending death, and her attic romance with a boy named Peter. Outside, in the present, Kitty, too, falls in love. This animation makes its points in its parallels.

It also speaks to a new generation. This is the first time I’ve seen anything involving Anne Frank’s story that includes images of cell phones. You’ll see them in the current time segments. The beauty of this film is its connection between past and present in its attempt to speak to young adults.

A message as real today as the year she wrote it

In the end, Kitty manages to stop the mass refugee deportation process by threatening to burn the diary unless the city adheres to Anne’s words of hope and acceptance rather than simply showboating her in building names. Kitty reiterates the lessons of the famous diary: As countries and as individuals, we must all do whatever we can to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past—especially the racism and “other” ing that led to Nazi atrocities—and to care for those in need. 

The film reminds us that we must hope, using Anne’s own words: In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart.”

If you watch with under 13

Note that the Nazi troops in this animation are menacing black-robed near-skeletons, and there are images or allusions to the ravages of wars both past and current, all of which could be nightmare-inducing for emotionally sensitive youth. There is a brief reference to sex (in quite an innocent way). Learn more about the film at the Where is Anne Frank? website.

See it

Where is Anne Frank? is playing May 19 at 12:00 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown and will be shown online on May 20 through SIFF Streaming. Get tickets.

Read more:

Preview: SIFF 2024 family and youth line-up

SIFF 2024: ‘We Can Be Heroes’ film review

SIFF 2024: ‘Pigsy’ film review

 

 

 

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.