A month after its clandestine screening in Iran, a film about Anne Frank and the Holocaust has been secretly screened in Gaza, where Holocaust denial is widespread among leaders of Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. Much of the film was shot there during the 2014 Israel/Gaza War.
The documentary film, Anne Frank: Then and Now, was screened in Gaza last Thursday amid tight security “due to safety reasons and out of fear that those organizing the showing would face accusations and judgment,” said the film’s Croatian director, Jakov Sedlar.
Hamas officials have called the Holocaust “the big lie,” and said that teaching about the Holocaust is “marketing a lie,” although President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, who shares power with Hamas, has called the Holocaust “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era” and expressing sympathy with victims’ families.”
Even so, screening a film about Anne Frank in Gaza is risky business – so risky that Sedlar didn’t attend for fear of his life. “My dream has come true,” he told Deadline. “The screening in Gaza has happened. But I wasn’t there. It was too dangerous for me. I am brave, but this time it was so dangerous to be there for this occasion.”
A video of those who attended the screening has had their identities concealed out of concerns for their safety.
The film focuses on the lives of eight young Palestinian girls and two Israelis as they try out for the role of Anne Frank. Shot in Arabic with English subtitles, it was meant to bring the story of the young Jewish World War II diarist to the Arab world, where many still believe the Holocaust never happened. But while it was filming, the 2014 Israel-Gaza War broke out, which was captured vividly as one of the young actresses takes her mark in front of a destroyed building in Gaza. As she speaks her lines, two men in gas masks run behind her, in and out of frame, darting for cover. It’s not in the script, but it couldn’t have been scripted any better to illustrate the irony of making a movie about peace in the midst of war.