Where is Anne Frank (2021) poster

Where is Anne Frank (2021)


Israel/Netherlands/France/Belgium/Switzerland/Luxembourg. 2021.


Director/Screenplay – Ari Folman, Producers – Ari Folman, Yves Kugelmann, Alexander Rodnanyansky & Jani Thiltges, Photography – Tristan Oliver, Music – Ben Goldwasser & Karen O, Animation Director – Yoni Goodman, Art Direction – Lena Guberman. Production Company – Eyes Wide Open/Cineart/Wild Bunch International/ Purple Whale Films/Waling the Dog/Samsa Film/Bridgit Folman Film Gang/Submarine Animation/Le Pacte/France 3 Cinema/Anne Frank Fonds Basel, Switzerland/The Actors Fund/Dramatists Guild Foundation/New Dramatists/Film Fund Luxembourg/BNP Paribas Forits Film France.


Ruby Stokes (Kitty), Emily Carey (Anne Frank), Ralph Prosser (Kitty’s Peter), Sebastian Croft (Anne’s Peter), Michael Maloney (Otto Frank), Samantha Spiro (Edith Frank), Skye Bennett (Margot Frank), Ari Folman (Officer Van Yaris), Tracy-Ann Oberman (Augusta Van Damm), Albert Woodall (Albert Dussell), Mara Myers (Sandra)


Kitty, the imaginary friend that Anne Frank wrote to in her diary, comes to life in the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. Anne began writing her diary after she and her family were forced to move into the attic space in a warehouse at the company her father worked for. Anne created Kitty as her ideal friend that she would write to in the diary. In the present-day museum, Kitty is not able to be seen by anybody as hordes of visitors pass through. She wonders what has happened to Anne. She finds that by going out into the streets carrying the diary with her that others can see and react with her. She is befriended by a boy Peter who shows her how the entire city has come to revere Anne and name schools and theatres in her honour. However, Kitty’s taking the diary has alerted the authorities who send up a citywide search for her.

Anne Frank (1929-45) probably needs no introduction to most people. She was the teenage girl from a Jewish family who fled from persecution by the Nazis in Germany to take refuge in an attic at her father’s company in Amsterdam. There Anne wrote a diary in which she described life in hiding. The diary ends abruptly on August 1, 1944. Someone betrayed them to the Nazis – debate about who this was circulates among various suspects, although nobody has been clearly identified. The Franks were deported to Auschwitz, later relocated to Bergen-Belsen. Anne was killed by a typhus epidemic that swept through the camp in early 1945 (shortly before it was liberated by British forces). The only member of the family to survive was her father Otto who returned to the hiding place where he discovered Anne’s diary and went on to ensure its publication to resounding international acclaim.

There have been assorted film versions of the Anne Frank story with the films The Diary of Anne Frank (1957) starring Millie Perkins and the German Anne Frank’s Diary (2016) with Lea van Acken and the tv movies The Diary of Anne Frank (1967) with Diana Davila, The Diary of Anne Frank (1980) starring Melissa Gilbert, the BBC mini-series The Diary of Anne Frank (1987) starring Katharine Schlesinger, the mini-series Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001) with Anna Taylor Greene, the BBC mini-series The Diary of Anne Frank (2009) starring Ellie Kendrick and the Dutch film My Best Friend Anne Frank (2021) starring Aiko Beemsterboer as Anne.

Where is Anne Frank was the fifth film from Israeli director Ari Folman. Folman first appeared as co-director of Saint Clara (1996) about a psychically gifted child. He next went solo with Made in Israel (2001) and then broached animation with Waltz With Bashir (2008), based on his own experiences in the Israeli army. This received a number of awards, including being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Folman next went on to make the part-animated, part-live-action SF film The Congress (2013) about augmented reality based on a Stanislaw Lem novel.

Anne Frank and her imaginary companion Kitty in Where is Anne Frank (2021)
(l to r) Anne Frank and her imaginary companion Kitty

As Folman reveals in the end credits, he has a personal connection to Anne Frank in that his own parents arrived at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp only a week after the Franks did. Where is Anne Frank was made with the cooperation of the Anne Frank Foundation, the organisation that maintains her legacy and holds copyright on the diary. The film creates detailed animated 3D replicas of The Achterhuis, the Franks’ shelter in the canal-side offices of the Prinsengracht.

Ari Folman takes no regular approach to the Anne Frank story. Rather than retell the narrative as a dramatic story as is in the abovementioned film and tv adaptations or the play we see staged in the course of the film, he takes the left field approach of making the point-of-view character Kitty, the Imaginary Companion that Anne wrote to in the diary. He has Kitty coming to life, first in the present-day and then flashing back to recount her interactions with Anne. We also get scenes where Anne imagines fictional characters, including a horsebacked Clark Gable, riding off the fight the Nazis.

This has a parallel story where Kitty emerges into the present day and by a piece of plotting sleight of hand can gain physical existence as long as she carries the diary with her, allowing her to go out and explore present-day Amsterdam. Here Kitty becomes an Outsider and through her eyes we see how the city has transformed the memory of Anne into a tourist industry (of which Folman is critical). More importantly, Folman uses the title question as a way of expanding beyond the narrative of the diary and having Kitty go on a quest to investigate the fate of Anne.

Stylised representations of Nazi stormtroopers in Where is Anne Frank (2021)
Stylised representations of Nazi stormtroopers

Another unusual aspect of the film is the characterisation of the Nazi stormtroopers as figures in black hoods with red symbols who resemble monks, accompanied by viciously barking dogs with red eyes. This becomes positively surreal when Anne arrives at the concentration camp and Folman instead chooses to relay her doing so in terms of a stylised allegory for descent into the underworld of Greek Mythology.

I have no problem saying that Where is Anne Frank is Ari Folman’s best film to date. The quality of animation is far superior to the work in Waltz With Bashir and vThe Congress. The characters come very nicely observed. And in particular the film reaches a heart-wrenching ending as we follow Anne’s eventual fate – through which it becomes hard to maintain a dry eye.

Folman takes the film in surprise left field directions right near the end to abandon the Anne Frank story and conduct a modern parallel where he draws a connection between the persecuted Jews under Nazism and the refugee crisis in Europe today. Here he has Kitty using the threat of destroying the diary to draw attention to the undocumented refugees in Amsterdam and make a strong message about keeping to the true spirit of what Anne wrote. The film goes on a strong and emotionally satisfying uplift.

(Winner in this site’s Top 10 Films of 2021 list).

Trailer here

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