There have been a spate of animations in recent years that can deliver heart-breaking stories with the lightest of touches – think 2017’s The Breadwinner, or 2006 Oscar nominee Waltz With Bashir. The director of the latter, Ari Folman, returns to tell one of history’s best-known stories with a new twist.
Where Is Anne Frank is set in modern-day Amsterdam. It imagines the arrival of Kitty (Ruby Stokes), the imaginary friend Frank wrote to in her diary, who has come to life and wonders where her creator has gone. Over the course of a few days, she discovers just what happened, and the legacy she left behind.
Gloriously animated, the story works in two parts. The first is a retelling of Frank’s journey, hiding with her family from The Nazis, and the various trials she underwent. It paints a picture of the young girl who loved movies, was irritated by those she stayed with, and fearful for the future. The second part links to the modern day, where Kitty discovers the plight of refugees shunned by the same people who deified her friend. It’s an accessible way of linking history to our times, which delivers its message bluntly but never softens the impact of either reality. The vocal performances match the gorgeous hand-drawn animation as Kitty, along with love interest Peter (Ralph Prosser), hold up a mirror to society’s past and present.
The film underperformed on its European release last year, with post-pandemic audiences seeking escapism at the cinema. However, considering the weight of the subject matter, Where Is Anne Frank is a memorable mix of struggle and beauty that you should definitely seek out.