His third feature film, ‘Waltz with Bashir’ (2008), gave him international prestige and revolutionized animated cinema. The Israeli filmmaker premieres this April 29 in Spain ‘Where is Anne Frank’, free and very personal adaptation of ‘The diary of Anne Frank’ -the famous memoirs of the Jewish teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp after spending two years hidden with her family in Amsterdam- which is another even more difficult one in her career. Using animation again, Folman recreates the girl’s story from the point of view of Kitty, the imaginary friend she was talking to in her diary, and in the process makes connections between the drama of those who fled the Nazis and the of the refugees who are trying to survive in Europe today.

What relationship did you have with ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ before making this film?

I read the book in school, when I was 14 years old, and I must admit that it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. But I decided to read it again as an adult and as a father, and the truth is that I was pleasantly surprised by its tremendous literary quality. Above all, I am fascinated by the precision with which she captures Ana’s personality. She is a very intelligent girl, who can act mischievous but is almost always very funny. She thinks of boys, she is jealous of her older sister, and she has problems with her mother. She is not a mere victim, but a complex teenager.

“Ana thinks about boys, is jealous of her sister and has problems with her mother. She was a complex teenager”

In any case, he was initially reluctant to make the film. Why?

Because I felt that the story of Anne Frank had already been told enough. But two things made me change my mind. The first was a documentary about the Holocaust in which my mother appears, and in which another survivor of the concentration camps states: “When we are all dead and there are no more direct witnesses, then that tragedy will be just a distant rumour”; Those words hit me hard. And shortly after, explaining my reluctance to my mother, she told me: “You are not obliged to make the film, but if you don’t, I will be dead tomorrow. On the other hand, if you do it, I promise you that I will live at least long enough to see it in the cinema & rdquor ;. The blackmail worked.

Your parents were in the concentration camps too, right?

Yes, and in fact they arrived at Auschwitz the same week as the Frank family. Obviously, for me this is a very personal film. During my childhood the Holocaust was omnipresent. I grew up listening to the terrible stories of the survivors, and that marked me for life. And later, when I entered film school, I thought that all films should tell stories as tragic as the ones I had heard endlessly in my childhood.

In his film, the Nazi soldiers are faceless. What is the reason?

I spent a lot of time wondering what I should look like, and I called my mom to ask her what the Nazis in Auschwitz were like. She told me that there she saw them as incredibly tall and strong, almost like gods, but that during the Nuremberg trials she found them short and ugly, and very ordinary. So portraying them was problematic for me. Also, I am not able to visualize the Nazis because I don’t understand them; to give them a human expression would mean to draw a conclusion about them, and I am not able to. Nazism is inexplicable to me. How is it possible that up to 500,000 Germans contributed in one way or another to the Final Solution? It’s hard for me to imagine such evil. And that’s why I have a hard time accepting films like ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993), which represent what happened inside the camps in an extremely graphic way.

“My mother told me that in Auschwitz she saw the Nazis tall and strong, but that at the Nuremberg trials they seemed short and ugly. I decided not to put a face on them”

Anyway, ‘Where’s Anne Frank’ recreates the last seven months of life that the girl spent in the Bergen-Belsen camp, where she died of typhus.

Yes, for me it was essential to include that period in the film. The first film based on the book, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ (1959), was also supposed to recreate the months before the young woman’s death, but when Otto Frank attended a screening of the film prior to his premiere and verified the commotion that these scenes caused among the public, he asked the producers to eliminate them from the final montage.

Do you think that, after the Holocaust, it is still possible to have faith in the human being?

Anne Frank affirmed that in every human being there is at least one particle of goodness, and I am afraid that I do not agree; History shows us the opposite. And yet I am optimistic. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have made this movie. We have a responsibility to dare to hope. If ‘Where’s Anne Frank’ succeeds in instilling compassion, tolerance and empathy in some of her viewers, then that will mean that the eight years of work that it has taken me have been worth it. But let’s not forget: movies don’t change the world. That belongs to politicians and laws.

“Movies don’t change the world. That’s up to politicians and laws”

The film, in effect, connects the Holocaust with the drama that refugees are experiencing today. There will be those who do not agree with that parallelism.

It is not that I am trying to compare both dramas, because the Jews did not get to have the opportunity to be refugees; they were massacred. His is an incomparable tragedy. Similarly, there is no sensible way to compare the genocide of one people with the genocide of another people. My intention in making the connection is to remind you that children today continue to be in danger of atrocities they do not understand and are not responsible for. Currently, 20% of children in the world are in danger of death because they live near a war zone. And basically there is no big difference between a child whose house has been bombed in Syria and a child in Mali whose village was destroyed. They both have to run away.

What do you think of the status that the figure of Anne Frank has acquired in popular culture?

I think its meaning has been corrupted by capitalist logic. When Otto Frank published his daughter’s diary in 1947, he created an icon for a good cause. The money raised thanks to the millionaire sales of the book always went to charities. And over time that icon has become a mere commercial claim; today the Anne Frank House is no longer a pilgrimage site for anti-fascists, but a tourist attraction that attracts two million visitors each year for whom the place has no political or emotional significance. They only go there to buy a souvenir.

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After premiering ‘Waltz with Bashir’ and ‘The Congress’ (2013), you announced that you would not make animated films again. What made you change your mind?

I’m not going to say something like that ever again! I feel like I’m addicted to animation. And not only because it offers infinite possibilities from a creative point of view, but also because it involves enormous difficulties, and those difficulties sharpen the ingenuity. Maybe I’m a masochist, I don’t know. Anyway, I made that statement right after the notorious commercial failure of ‘El Congreso’. To make that film I had to involve numerous investors and hundreds of animators, and then no one went to see it in the cinema. That made me decide that I would never do adult animation again. Facing such complicated productions only makes sense if the goal is to make films for the whole family. From the first moment I knew that ‘Where’s Anne Frank’ would be a film for children over 10 years old. Because our kids need to know that story, and since they’re hopelessly hooked on screens, it’s impossible to get them to read a 350-page book. But they must meet her anyway.


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