Surprisingly, Jon Blair’s “Anne Frank Remembered” is the first eye-witness chronicle of the life and legacy of Anne Frank, the 15-year-old Jewish girl who became a symbol of the children exterminated in the Holocaust. Combining unique personal testimony, never-before-seen photos, previously undisclosed family letters and rare archival footage, this riveting, often haunting documentary warrants limited theatrical release before being shown on public TV, cable and other venues. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Anne’s death, the film could also be used as an educational tool for its vivid, personal evidence of the Holocaust.
Anne Franc’s diary, first Published in 1947, has sold over 25 million copies in over 50 languages, yet there has never been a comprehensive account of her life. In 1955, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett won a Pulitzer Prize for their Broadway play, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which four years later was made into a film by George Stevens.
Blair, whose 1983 docu “Schindler” won a British Academy Award, has made a superbly researched, stirring film that is as much about the past as about the present. Helmer was granted access to unique archives and was given permission to recreate the place where Anne and her family spent two years in hiding.
The most illuminating sequences of the film, which begins in 1925 with the Franks’ marriage in Germany and concludes with her father Otto’s death in Switzerland in 1980, are those dealing with the growing pains of an alert, vivacious girl who wanted to be famous and, indeed, left her imprint on the world. In 1942, on her 13th birthday, she was given a diary, which she addressed as a secret, intimate friend and which later became her main source of comfort and support. Evidence is supplied that Anne’s ambition was to publish her diary and that she rewrote and edited some of theearlier entries toward that goal.
New info about Anne’s “spicy” personality and immense curiosity are revealed by Holocaust survivor Hanneli Goslar, Anne’s close friend from the age of 4, and particularly by Miep Cies, a long-term office employee of Anne’s father, who was one of the main helpers to the families in hiding. Using the same strategy of Claude Lanzmann in “Shoah,” Blair provides important insights about the day-to-day life in hiding, where Anne experienced her first writing, first awareness of her sexuality — and first love.
In August 1944, the residents of the secret annex were betrayed, arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where they were separated. Anne and her older sister, Margot , died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in early 1945, just weeks before the liberation forces arrived.
In a powerful coda, docu retraces Otto’s painful journey at the end of the war, desperately searching for — and fatefully learning of — the tragic deaths of his beloved wife and two daughters. After returning to Holland, Otto devoted the rest of his life to maintaining his daughter’s heritage and propagating her message of tolerance.