Jon Blair | 117 mins | TV | E / PG
Anne Frank’s is arguably the best-known individual story of the Holocaust, perhaps because the diary of a 13-year-old girl in hiding from the Nazis — and, sadly, eventually captured by them — makes a perfect gateway for young people into learning about those atrocities.
In this Oscar-winning documentary, Jon Blair exposes the ‘untold story’ of Anne Frank. He adds to her words with the perspective of her friends, other people who knew her, and relatives of her companions in the annex. In covering these views the film presents alternate interpretations of many people Anne wrote about — for example, Fritz Pfeffer (renamed Albert Dussel in the published diary) is very disliked by Anne, but here is painted in a very different light by his son. The film also reflects on Anne herself, and what it uncovers is not always positive. Such an honest approach could be contentious, but its attempt to uncover the truth — rather than paint a false saintly picture — is admirable.
The film’s second half describes what happened after the diary ends, an often ignored part of the tale — even the BBC’s recent, excellent adaptation ended with the residents of the annex being escorted out, and I think many believe this is where the story ends. In reality there were seven months between the discovery of the annex and Anne’s death, and while only Otto Frank survived the concentration camps, many of the others came heartbreakingly close: Peter van Pels died just three days before his camp was liberated, while Pfeffer was marched away by the deserting SS as the Soviets neared, dying with so many others on that path. Here the film touches on much of what life was like in the camps, adding to its detail of how life was for those in hiding. There are undoubtedly other texts that do this more thoroughly, but by focusing on one family and using just a handful of interviewees, the events are made to feel incredibly personal in a way that some documentaries’ more factual approach fails to.
What happened to the diary after the war is also briefly covered: how the book came to light, the impact it had when published, allegations it was a hoax (due to differences between translations, and fictional events created for the 1955 play and subsequent film adaptation), as well as the positive effect it’s had beyond that, including comments from the likes of Nelson Mandela.
With its honest and extended investigation of the events covered in Anne Frank’s diary, plus its consideration of broader facts of the Holocaust, Anne Frank Remembered adds significantly to the original text. In doing so it becomes an essential companion piece to one of the most famous and important documents of the Second World War.