The 38th Jerusalem Film Festival kicked off Tuesday night at the city’s Sultan’s Pool with the Israeli premiere of Ari Folman’s long-awaited animated film, “Where is Anne Frank?”
Attendants celebrated the return to the in-person film festival opening, following last year’s online version due to the coronavirus pandemic. The full crowd of some 5,000 masked attendees had to present Green Passes before entering the outdoor venue.
The film, eight years in the making by Folman and his Jaffa animation studio — with additional animation work by Jerusalem studios — is a gorgeously animated feature based on a fantastical premise: Frank’s imaginary friend, Kitty, the audience for her diary entries, comes to life in the present-day Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
The character, drawn according to Anne Frank’s diary as a redhead with a delicate spray of freckles on her cheeks, is unaware that 75 years have gone by, and sets out to find Anne and understand what happened to her.
In the adventure that follows, which includes flashbacks from Anne’s diary that Kitty carries with her, viewers are taken through Anne’s history.
There are scenes from the family’s hiding place in an Amsterdam attic and their fellow attic dwellers and glimpses of the feared Nazis — portrayed as giant, faceless monsters — who Anne slays with imagined battles fought by her army of heroes that include dragons and Clark Gable.
Meanwhile Kitty befriends fellow teenagers living near the museum, including Peter, who runs a secret shelter for undocumented refugees.
Kitty’s support of the refugees as they struggle to adjust in a strange, new world is one of the overriding themes of the film, as Folman connects Anne Frank’s messages of hope in her diary with the current plight of people who have lost their homes.
The film was dedicated to Anne’s father, Otto Frank, whose foundation, the Anne Frank Fonds, first approached Folman years ago about making the film.
“His life was dedicated to her diary, and to love, that was his message,” said Folman, who spoke before the screening.
Also in attendance were President Isaac Herzog, Culture Minister Chili Tropper, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and Jerusalem Cinematheque director Noa Regev, who all commended Folman for the eight years he worked on the film, which was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the spring.
“I saw thousands of people at Cannes standing for long minutes and clapping for a film about a Jewish girl made by an Israeli,” said Tropper.