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Where is Anne Frank ★★



Director: Ari Folman

Cast: Emily Carey, Ruby Stokes, Sebastian Croft, Ari Folman

Release: August 12, 2022 (UK)

Premiering at Cannes 2021, Where is Anne Frank is the latest animated feature by Waltz with Bashir filmmaker Ari Folman. Based on the famous writings of the eponymous historical figure, the film follows Kitty (A Banquet‘s Ruby Stokes), Anne Frank’s imaginary friend to whom she addressed her diary entries, as she manifests in modern-day Amsterdam and embarks on an adventure to find out what happened to Anne (Emily Carey).

On a cold and rainy day, the film opens at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, where the words of Anne Frank literally come to life as a young redheaded girl, Kitty, who is unaware of the time and events that have passed since Frank’s final diary entry. Kitty is eager to find Anne but her presence quickly makes her the proverbial ‘fish out of water’ – dressed in outdated clothes and in the dark over the outcome of World War II, her concerns for her missing ‘friend’ is quickly (and unsurprisingly) dismissed by everyone.

There are concerns about whether the combination of animation and magic realism is the most suitable medium to convey the emotional turmoil of a historical figure. Through heart-to-hearts with Kitty, Anne pours her heart about her frustration with the war, not to mention the horror experienced by Jews. Amid her growing annoyance, she paints an idealist picture of her life where boys are infatuated with her and screen legends such as Clark Gable lead a charge against the Nazis. There are times Frank comes across as brattish, but her annoyance highlights a lack of fear in her voice, so her trepidation occasionally feels unjustified. It is possible that she is hiding her fears from Kitty to convey a simpler, idealistic world full of imagination and colour, which further supports the film’s fantastical narrative around an imaginary figure but subsequently steers the limelight away from Frank’s legacy.

In fact, Where is Anne Frank does not provide enough context about Frank’s significance. Throughout the film, Kitty sees landmarks, streets and museums, and even a statue named and dedicated to Frank, but the film doesn’t exactly say why she is famous. In Kitty’s eyes, she doesn’t see a famous figure; all she sees is her friend and her only link to the world, so upon watching a play about Anne, she is understandably protective of her friend’s integrity and especially her diary. Folman tries to address this through Kitty’s growing involvement with illegal immigrants, as she sees that their struggles echo those experienced by Anne. However, this eventually caves into uninspiring clichés, not to mention a half-baked conclusion.

Although the voice cast makes the most of the inconsistent screenplay that feels mismatched to the film’s tone, there is beauty within the animation and Folman’s direction. At the same time, the clever use of colours complements its narrative. But beyond the beautiful visuals, there is not enough to either inspire or educate audiences about the famous diarist.

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