#AnneFrank. Parallel Stories, a 2020 documentary streaming on Netflix, is narrated by Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren who revisits Anne Frank’s life and the possibility of what she could have been; reading passages of her diary, which continues to reverberate around the world.
#Anne Frank honors the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz while also drawing on the testimony of other Holocaust survivors. The film salutes their spirit and courage through the story-telling of their parallel testimonies.
The film takes us down an original and unusual pathway focusing its content target on today’s younger generation as it includes a fictional character called “Katarina Kat”— a girl roughly the same age as Anne Frank and seemingly a characteristically urban advantaged teenager. Katarina travels extensively across Europe with her iPhone, always in hand, and documents her experiences of visiting concentration camps and Holocaust Museums through her many postings on Instagram. Katrina’s intention is noble—in her own way, as she wrestles with Anne Frank’s tragic death at an age when life should have been full of exciting opportunities. On Katarina Kat’s Instagram page, she creates a visual diary of her own making, leaving remarks, photos and questions addressed to Anne Frank sent into the abyss of the internet. Like her contemporaries, she doesn’t miss posting the spot-on hashtags—#annihilation, #persecution, #resistance.
Mirren’s narration is viewed from the actual bedroom and read from desk of Anne Frank as she takes us patiently though the accounting of Anne’s two-years of memories filled with teenage joys and deepening frustrations. Later, full of fear and dark premonitions, as she hides with her family in a secret annex of their Amsterdam house evading discovery by the Nazis. Anne writings describes in great detail her feelings that the “ring of death” is forever closing in on her and her family as she hears second-hand stories of mass deportations to distant unknown places and the extermination of her fellow Jews.
In spite of her isolated life, Anne Frank was able to mobilize an exceptional essence of toughness and improve her maturing intellectual resources which assisted her in fighting off the deepening gloom of her days. In the two years she confided in her diary — she thought of the journal as a friend calling the diary Kitty and using her friendship with Kitty to relay her deepest personal thoughts. Through her narrative, Anne Frank left us with a vivid portrait of who she was and harbingers of the woman she could become.
The documentary #AnneFrank—Parallel Stories is directed by Sabina Fedeli and Anna Migotto. The film not only intends to memorialize Anne Frank’s life and legacy, especially for people around her teenage years who are living today, it heroically doesn’t confine itself to just telling Anne Frank’s story alone. Instead, in parallel, it also includes the stories of five different Holocaust survivors, roughly the same age as Anne Frank had she survived the Shoah. Each in their late 80s and early 90’s, they recall their memories of similar situations within their own death camps and ghettos – Auschwitz-Berkenau, Bergen Belsen, and Terezin among others. Arianna Szörenyi, Sarah Lichtsztejn-Montard, Helga Weiss and the sisters Andra and Tatiana Bucci retell their own Holocaust stories—their memories of losing parents and loved ones to the Nazis, and the steadfast heroism and resilience it took for them to come out of the death camps alive.
Their personal stories are also layered with testimonies by their second and third generation children and grandchildren, who additionally speak about their complicated inheritance of trauma and their difficulties in processing the suffering their parents and grandparents endured. As one woman says of her mother, “A part of her has remained in the camp.”
While the reality of the camps may feel distant and the brutality of what their ancestors survived seem surreal to today’s younger generation, fascism and neo-Nazism are again raising their ugly heads and appear to be “super-spreader diseases” wreaking havoc all over the world. With the present surge of nationalism sprouting around the world, dominated by real and/or quasi-dictators, the fear of the 21st century “death camp” isn’t merely a historical footnote. It remains palpable and all too real for the millions of stateless refugees, left adrift in the world, who are forced into today’s “refugee camps” with sub-human conditions.
“So what have we learned from history? There are Neo-Nazis and genocide perpetrators everywhere who still want to go after those who are different.”
Of all the heart-wrenching moments in this documentary the narrations from Holocaust survivors simply punches you in the gut. And just as importantly, it reminds you why history has the ability to repeat itself.
Despite telling you what you already know about Hitler and his unpardonable brutality against the Jews, Anna Migotto and Sabina Fedeli’s documentary leaves you with an emotional and lasting impact on you for a reason. “Not only does it retell the past, but it also understands its aftermath and consequences on the survivors and their future generations. Can time erase the pain, or does it merely help filter down the wounds from person to person? Perhaps this is the only way we cope with trauma.”
While you walk into the film knowing it will be a tearjerker, the film’s biggest takeaway is hope and a promise for the future.
Mirren’s heartfelt narration transports you into the mind of Anne, who went on to become the face of Shoah (Holocaust). A courageous Jewish girl who died at 15, but not before inspiring generations with her writing. Her diary made her immortal. The film’s historian shatters your heart with his analogy. “Imagine what she could have become had she been alive. When you kill children, you kill infinite possibilities.”
The Frank family was arrested in 1944 and sent to the concentration camp. Anne and her sister Margot were transferred from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died (probably of typhus) a few months later. Otto Frank survived the camps and decided to publish Anne’s diary. Doing so, he enabled the world to learn and understand the lessons of the Holocaust.
Jeffery Giesener, former CEO of SourceMob, has both public and private company experience. Today, retired and enjoying life in San Diego, he’s a freelance writer who has a passion for both cinema and baking his Mom’s (OBM) European recipes.
Republished from San Diego Jewish World