Ari Folman • Director of Where Is Anne Frank
“I would never do an animation film for adults again”
by Kaleem Aftab
- CANNES 2021: The Israeli director reveals how his mother helped him decide to make an animated adventure based on The Diary of Anne Frank
Israel’s Ari Folman talks to Cineuropa about his new film, Where Is Anne Frank [+see also:
interview: Ari Folman
film profile], which played Out of Competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Did you enjoy making Where Is Anne Frank?
Ari Folman: No, it was really tough. It was a struggle just to survive. I was on it for eight years. My mother is a Holocaust survivor, and she's 98. She told me, “Ari, it took you twice the time of the Holocaust itself to make the movie. You should be embarrassed.” She's right. I enjoyed some parts of it, but I think animation production is the toughest thing ever. And the bigger the film, the less you have the pure time to be able to deal with artform stuff with your designers and animators. You're just struggling all the time.
When you were approached to make the film, did they give you the idea of embodying the character of Kitty as a person?
That’s not correct. They came with the diary, and I didn't want to do it at all. I thought there was nothing new I could say about the Anne Frank story. I was tired of animation after The Congress [+see also:
film profile], and I wanted a break. They said, “Okay, you read it again, and you go and see your mother.” They knew my background. I read it, and I found it to be an incredible piece of literature. I have teenage kids, and you can't imagine that it was a 13-year-old who wrote it. Then I met my mother, who’s a Polish Jew, and I said that I had got this offer. She said, “Look, we have never interfered with your career, but if you don't take it, I will die tomorrow morning. My body will be waiting for you.”
And when did the idea come to tie Anne Frank in with the story of the refugee crisis in Europe?
The refugee thing only came in 2015. I changed the last act when the refugee crisis started. The idea was to connect Anne Frank to contemporary issues. The original script was influenced by this story that I read during the Siege of Sarajevo in 1995: there was this girl who declared herself the Bosnian Anne Frank. It was the early days of the internet, and she was airing a short piece about her life in the siege every day. One day, a helicopter landed in her village and took her. They flew her to Paris to be interviewed in a studio. They asked her about being the Bosnian Anne Frank, and they asked her how she thought it would end. She said she would die like Anne Frank. They said, “Thank you,” and they flew her back to Bosnia instead of helping her escape.
The animation style is easier to digest than some of the more artistic visions you have had in your previous films. Is that because you wanted the audience to concentrate on the story?
It's the first time I have made a movie and thought about the audience. This time, for every artistic decision, I thought about children watching it. My kids were the test case all the time. If this doesn't bring children to the theatre, then it's a failure. But I think I understand a lot more about cinema now.
In what way?
I would never do an animation film for adults again. I believe less and less in the existence of big, artistic projects that no one sees, which just travel from festival to festival. The Congress was a €10 million project, but audiences didn't see it.
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