The Anne Frank Gift Shop resorts to dark comedy in discussing how to rebrand antisemitism and the Holocaust for the 21st century.
“The latest studies are quite grim–2/3 of young Americans are unaware that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust.” – Diedrick (Josh Meyers)
The film is currently on the Oscars shortlist for Best Live-Action Short Film. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about it until mid-December following an email from Reboot about Elizabeth Banks leading a discussion with filmmaker Mickey Rapkin following a screening at the Holocaust Museum in Los Angeles. If Rapkin’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he wrote the book that Kay Cannon beautifully aca-adapted as a script for Pitch Perfect. Anyway, GQ Magazine is streaming the film through January 16, 2024.
If you’ve paid attention to the news of late, it means you know how bad Holocaust education is in America. Nearly 11% think that the Jews caused the Holocaust. That’s like people making the ill-advised argument that Jews caused the October 7 massacre. The results of surveys are pretty distressing and it’s why a lot of efforts are going into figuring out ways to teach the Holocaust. Due to the diary, Anne Frank is among the most famous victims of The Nazis’ systemic genocide of the European Jewish population. In many ways, it’s perfectly understandable why a rebranding of the Anne Frank House and the Anne Frank Gift Shop would be the way into approach reaching younger audiences. This begs the question of what is the right way to teach the Holocaust to younger generations?
Amy (Ari Graynor), Ben (Chris Perfitti), and Jack (Jason Butler Harner) work for the firm tasked with the rebranding. Both Ilse (Kate Burton) and Diedrick represent the Amsterdam museum. Also participating in the meeting is an influencer, Madison (Mary Beth Barone). One idea is a true-crime podcast about finding out the betrayer of Anne Frank. Years later, we still do not know. Yes, there was a book but many historians, amongst others, have dismissed its findings. The cold case lives on for another day. Other ideas include TikTok, and giving Anne Frank’s cat an Instagram account. Seriously?!?
Madison brings up the idea of a Holocaust survivor being at the museum to answer questions and I’m like, many of them are in their 80s and 90s! You’d seriously expect them to be there all day? Her idea gets shot down but then she says that a Holocaust survivor was her grandmother before saying she lied. I personally did not see the lie coming but if I heard someone say that, I would be seriously offended. You do not joke about the Holocaust and get away with it! But no matter what is too far-fetched in this dark comedy, it’s taken to the next level in the real world. Zara selling clothing that looks like what was worn in the camps. Umbro naming their shoes after Zyklon. Don’t get me started on the many selfies people take at Auschwitz.
It pains me just how much I was laughing while watching the short film. But what can I say, Jews have a way with gallows humor, even during the darkest of times in our history. Look at the Solzy Award-winning Heritage Day and how it also discusses the Holocaust with dark comedy. My reaction to this film is different than it might have been before October 7. But after October 7 and seeing people deny the atrocities, it kind of explains Holocaust denial. Regardless, we must keep teaching about the Holocaust so that it never happens again. Had I seen this film before my short film awards went live in November, it would have tied with Heritage Day because it’s so important. That’s why I’m glad to see it on the Oscars shortlist. Please watch this film and consider it!
The Babyn Yar massacre is a subject that comes up during the short. Ben discusses how 34,000 were shot and buried in just two days. I’ve covered a documentary about the massacre. How people become so hateful against Jews is beyond me. Regardless, more people do need to know about the massacre.
“I do not know how to reach young people but the cost of doing nothing–that I do know. We have to tell this story again and again and again–every which way–but it will happen again.” – Ilse
Amy suggests closing every day by reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish. She starts the beginning of Kaddish before both Diedrick and Ilse join in reciting the words that close almost every Jewish service, be it Shacharit, Mincha, or Maariv. It’s without a doubt the most emotional moment in viewing the short film. The emotion gets to Ben, who leaves the room. Hell, the emotion even got to me! This never happens while standing up for Kaddish at shul.
It’s important to teach younger generations about the Holocaust and this is why The Anne Frank Gift Shop is a must-watch. The film could not be more timely amid a global rise in Jew-hatred.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Mickey Rapkin
CAST: Ari Graynor, Chris Perfetti, Kate Burton, Jason Butler Harner, Mary Beth Barone, Josh Meyers, Helen Trott
GQ is exclusively streaming The Anne Frank Gift Shop from November 28, 2023 through January 16, 2024. Grade: 5/5
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