70 Years After Anne Frank Arrest, Arabic Documentary in Works with Israel-Gaza Footage

The Hollywood Reporter

08/04/2014 by Nick Holdsworth
Anne Frank

Croatian director Jakov Sedlar’s “What Does Anne Frank Mean Today?” weaves scenes from Frank’s diary with conversations with ordinary Palestinian youngsters.

Seventy years after Anne Frank and her family were discovered and arrested by the Nazis at their hiding place in an Amsterdam townhouse, Frank’s story is set to be told in Arabic for the first time.

Now a new documentary, using six young Palestinian actresses to portray Frank between the ages of 12 and 14, is being produced to help bring her story to Arab audiences.

The film, What Does Anne Frank Mean Today? directed by acclaimed Croatian filmmaker Jakov Sedlar and his sonDominik, includes footage of the Israel-Gaza conflict from recent weeks.

Sedlar — who has directed more than 60 documentaries and eight features, including Syndrome Jerusalem a docu-drama starring Martin Sheen, Macaulay Culkin and Charlotte Rampling that won the first Peace Prize Award at the Venice film festival in 2004 — says a delay in filming when one of the young actresses in Gaza went down with a fever pushed the schedule back to coincide with the beginning of the latest conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamic military organization Hamas.

“Although the closest I got to Gaza was three kilometers, our Palestinian crew were in the city filming between bombardments. The last few scenes in the film include some real footage from the violence,” Sedlar told The Hollywood Reporter.

Inspired by an idea from Israeli theater producer Jaacov Agmon, who has long wanted to producer an Arab version of The Diary of Anne Frank at the Arab Hebew Theater he founded in Jaffa, Israel, Sedlar’s documentary is designed to “open eyes and minds.”

By combining drama and documentary — the film opens and closes with scenes from an Albanian language production of The Diary of Anne Frank in Kosovo — Sedlar hopes to contribute to understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Maybe we can open eyes for somebody,” he says.

“Art cannot change the whole world, but we can help to understand it a bit more. The fact that we are doing this film in Arabic means we hope that we can do a bit to show how we must not repeat history.”

The film weaves scenes from the diary Anne Frank kept while hiding in Amsterdam from 1942-44 with conversations with ordinary Palestinian youngsters.

“One girl asked why, in the midst of the Israeli bombardment, governments are so crazy, spending millions on a daily basis for war, rather than for the arts, medicine or on poor people,” Sedlar said.

There are also scenes shot in classrooms in Gaza and Ramallah in which “the kids talk about love, their first kiss and all those subjects Anne Frank addressed in her diary.”

The film has a score by world renowned pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim and includes an interview with Schindler’s List producer Branko Lustig, who reveals that, at age 12, he was imprisoned just 150 meters from the Bergen-Belsen barracks where Anne Frank died.

Sedlar, who expects to finish post production by the end of September, is looking for a distributor, but says he dreams of holding the film’s premiere in Tehran, where its relevance to the Arab world would be highlighted.INTERNATIONAL

Roman Polanski Prepping Next Feature in Poland, Wants Assurance He Won’t Be Extradited to U.S.

6:50 AM PST 06/30/2014 by Nick Holdsworth
Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images
Roman Polanski

The octogenarian director, still wanted in America on 40-year-old statutory rape charges, plans to film a biopic about a 19th-century French military officer falsely accused of espionage.

MOSCOW — Roman Polanski is hoping to shoot his next feature — a biopic about Alfred Dreyfus, the 19th-century French military officer falsely accused of espionage — in Poland.

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Polanski has been scouting locations in Krakow and Warsaw with executives from the Polish Film Institute and top studios, including Alvernia, ATM Film Studio and Warsaw’s WFDiF. If he does film in Poland, it will be his first feature entirely shot there since his 1962 film, Knife in the Water.

He was last in Poland in September, when he caused a sensation after giving a master class to students at the Gdynia film festival, as he risked possible extradition to the U.S. by participating.
There were no moves to arrest Polanski, who holds dual French-Polish citizenship, and no extradition request. Under Polish law, the statute of limitations on his 1977 charges has long since expired.

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But Polanski, who has rented an apartment in Krakow and opened a Polish bank account in preparation for shooting the Dreyfus film, wants official guarantees on his legal security before committing to do the project in Poland.

“Both the artistic and technical conditions proposed by Polish studios fulfill expectations,” Robert Benmussa, his producer, told the Polish Film Institute. “But the final decision ultimately depends on the legal security of Roman Polanski in Poland.”

Polanski, who is understood to have remained in Krakow for a vacation after location scouting, has, according to the Polish Film Institute, instructed his lawyers to make it clear that if Poland wants to attract the $40 million project and its cast of top British and Hollywood actors, his security, particularly as it relates to any possible U.S. extradition request, must be guaranteed.

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The Polish Film Institute, Polish Film Commission and city authorities in Krakow have all confirmed their interest in co-financing the film, and Polanski met them and Poland’s minister of culture, Malgorzata Omilanowska during his scouting trip.

Polanski has been Paris-based since 1978, as France is one of the few European countries that forbids extradition of its citizens to the U.S.

In 2010, he escaped a forced return to America after U.S. authorities lost an extradition battle in Switzerland, where Polanski had been invited to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival

Romania Filmmakers Launch Campaign to Stop Cinema Closures

Romanian filmmakers have launched a campaign to save the country’s fast disappearing single screen cinemas.

The campaign — ‘Save the Big Screen’ — aims to prevent the further closure of state-owned theaters and rebuild a network of urban art house cinemas to help revive the distribution of domestic films.

More than 400 cinemas have closed down since Romania’s revolution 25 years ago, leaving the country with just 30 single screen, downtown theaters and more than three quarters of towns and cities without a cinema.


Breakfast TV, Bishkek Style

There’s something poetic about getting up for a 7 a.m breakfast tv appearance to talk about movies when you’ve just arrived in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan and your body clock tells you that this is a deeply weird thing to be doing… particularly when you’ve blithely promised to do the whole thing live and in Russian…. but that’s what I did this morning (or evening, depending on where you happen to be in the world.)

Since NTS Bishkek’s UtroLive! went out… um, live…. I didn’t immediately have a link to my erudite comments about Kyrgzystan’s first ever historical epic film, Kurmanjan Datkabut from what the movie’s producer Farkhad Bekmambetov tells me, who watched my 15 minutes of fame, I made sense, which is a relief.

I do have a photo, courtesy of the Facebook site of the charming morning show presenter Nuraika (Nuraiyim Ryskulova) who had the presence of mind to ask as studio technician to snap a pic of us on the sofa when a music clip rolled at the end of our interview.

(and now: STOP PRESS, a link to the footage of..15 minutes of fame, Bishkek style….


Britain’s secessionist debate: King James speaks

Straying a little outside my usual Eastern approaches, but thinking of the recent ‘referendum’ in Crimea, this story from today’s Telegraph casts an intriguing historic light on the current debate over Scottish independence, due to go to a vote (north of the border) in September….




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