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Bringing Anne Frank to the Arab world

by Danielle Berrin

August 18, 2014 | 5:00 pm

What on earth is Anne Frank doing in Gaza?

According to Deadline.com, Croatian director Jakov Sedlar is in the midst of production on "What Does Anne Frank Mean Today?" a film that follows eight Palestinian girls as they audition for the role of Anne Frank.

"Part drama and part documentary," the film will be shot in Arabic with English subtitles, and seeks to illuminate the Palestinian reception of Jewish tragedy and victimhood. According to the article, "[the film is] meant to bring the young Jewish World War II diarist’s story to the Arab world, where many still believe the Holocaust never happened."

Typically, I'm not in the habit of posting excerpts from other news sites, but this is an exceptional read -- not only for the fascinating dilemmas inherent in the endeavor itself, but in the reporting on how Palestinians in Gaza have responded to Frank's diary. Plus, I'm a devoted Anne Frank groupie.

An additional challenge for Sedlar and his Gaza-based crew was that the production was interrupted by the recent war. The before-and-after symbolism is wrenching to consider, as are the parallels to Frank's own life: More than seven decades later, an iteration of her story is once again told on the verge of war and in its aftermath.

“Before we started filming," [Sedlar said], I met with the crew and told them about the book and about the Holocaust. One guy, our sound man, asked me: ‘Is it really true that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust?’ He told me that in his school, they taught that the Holocaust existed, but that they do not believe in that number.”

Sedlar said that 80% of the people he encountered while shooting the film in Gaza and Ramallah were holocaust deniers. “That comes from their education,” he The_Diary_of_a_Young_Girl_at_the_Anne_Frank_Zentrumsaid. “Basically, in their schools they don’t teach anything about that part of history. Their education is a big problem, not only because of the Holocaust but because young people are taught that Jews are the worst people in the world. Because of that, I think our film is not only a film but a mission to teach.”

During production, he said, his sound man came to him and said, “I am upset that Jews who suffered during World War II are destroying Gaza and killing civilians.”

Sedlar asked him. “But what can the government of Israel do? Hamas is building tunnels and launching rockets from behind schools and hospitals to attack Israel.”

The sound man replied: “I don’t like Hamas. I need peace. I need a normal life.”

Sedlar told Deadline: “Most of the people I met in Gaza and Ramallah see Jews only as enemies, nothing more. Only a very small percentage was ready to listen to facts. After explaining some real facts to them, their basic comment was: ‘Maybe this is only propaganda.’ When I asked them if they thought that Anne Frank’s diary is also propaganda, they said: ‘No. It looks real. We can believe that something like that happened. Here in Gaza, we also have kids who suffered like Anne Frank.’

Read the rest at Deadline.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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