A new animated Anne Frank movie brings her diary to life in modern-day Amsterdam


Dan Buffa, Special For The Jewish Light

Ari Folman had an order from his mother and a wish from the father of the subject from his latest film, “Where Is Anne Frank?”

According to the Israeli filmmaker-whose new film is debuting at the Cannes Film Festival this month-it was Otto Frank who asked that the film be more about the universal appeal of his daughter and not just the Holocaust-inflicted tragedy. Folman spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the goal of “spreading the Frank legacy” and other behind-the-scenes urges he experienced before making the film, including the do-or-die (literally!) request from his own mother.

Indeed, after Folman was formally asked by The Anne Frank Fonds (the foundation run by Otto) to adapt the diary and apply his own spin to it, it was the Folman matriarch who pushed him to consider it. As Ari told it, she said if he didn’t take the job, she would die that day and that he could come to get her body. If he decided to do it, she would live long enough to see the premiere. Any good son will know the answer to that pledge has three letters instead of just two.

But it’s not your ordinary film adaptation. Folman is going to make it an animated adventure, bringing Frank’s imaginary friend, Kitty, to life in the story and stretching the 75-years-and-counting story to the present. In Folman’s film, Kitty wakes up in the near future inside Frank’s home, setting out to find out what happened to her friend, who she thinks could still be alive. Along the way, Kitty comes to realize Anne’s true legacy.

The theme here is a connection between the struggles of the people hiding from the Nazis during the war and modern-day European refugees living on the outskirts of society. By giving it the animated touch, Folman is following a popular yet potent trend of retelling vital history lessons with a visual dazzle that reaches kids as well as adults.

It’s a bold endeavor and one that really stuck with the director when he visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and saw how the heartfelt story of a girl lost inside a war was being commercialized. Folman wishes to spread the Frank legacy by reformatting her own words and giving them a fresh life.

Another slice of uniqueness attached to this story is that it is the first film or adaptation to have the full support of Anne Frank Fonds.

I don’t think Anne Frank’s tale should ever grow a scab or dry out. Everyone who has experienced a breath of air on this Earth should understand and appreciate her story. Ari Folman is essentially building a new map with his feature, “Where is Anne Frank.”

It premiered in the South of France at Cannes this week but hopefully should find theaters and more eyes this fall and winter when the awards season heats up.