Long-buried letters from Anne Frank’s father are the impetus behind No Asylum, Paula Fouce’s account of the Frank family’s plight before and during World War II. But those documents were made public nearly a decade ago, and Fouce’s film devotes only a fraction of its running time to their contents, instead following the family’s experience long after they were sent. Anne Frank’s story has always been a moving way of personalizing the horrors of this war, and that remains the case here; but Fouce’s dry doc is best suited for screening rooms in history museums.
Fouce’s film asserts that the letters and telegrams, discovered in the vast uncatalogued holdings of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, are “Chapter 1 of the Anne Frank story,” then disproves that claim by reaching back further, interviewing Anne’s childhood friends and relatives for some of the film’s most affecting glimpses into her lively personality. It intersperses these with the tale of how Otto sought permission to flee to the U.S. But with hundreds of thousands of refugees being denied entry, even Otto’s friendship with the family who owned Macy’s department stores couldn’t help get the family in.
The film moves on from the letters a half-hour in, interviewing survivors about how the Frank family was split up by the Germans and suffered in concentration camps. (Interviews appear to be sourced from many other documentary and TV programs.) Anne and her sister Margot died in the Bergen-Belsen camp; a British soldier who was part of the team who discovered that camp describes the horrors it held.
The film pays only brief attention to Otto’s life after he was freed from his own captivity, when he had decades to provide a first-hand account of the story these letters tell, and to help introduce the world to the vastly more remarkable testament left behind by his daughter.
Distributor: Ro*Co Films International
Production company: Paradise Filmworks International
Director: Paula Fouce
Screenwriters: Michael X. Flores, Paula Fouce
Producer: Paula Fouce
Executive producer: Leslie Schwarz
Editor: Michael X. Flores
Composer: Luciano Storti
Not rated, 75 minutes