REIMAGINING THE PERSONAL:
Dutch Holocaust and (Post-)Colonial Heritage Narratives Remediated through Film
Master’s Thesis Heritage & Memory Studies Author: Fionnuala Joyce
2019-2021 Student number: 12744441
Thesis Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ihab Saloul
Second Reader: Dr. David Duindam
Date: 9 August 2021
Reimagining the Personal:
Dutch Holocaust and (Post-)Colonial Heritage Narratives Remediated through Film
Master’s Thesis Heritage & Memory Studies 2019-2021, University of Amsterdam
Author: Fionnuala Joyce
Thesis Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ihab Saloul Second Reader: Dr. David Duindam
Date: 9 August 2021
Word amount: 25,258
The purpose of this master’s thesis is to examine how personal stories are being used to reimagine heritage narratives surrounding Holocaust and Colonial histories of the Netherlands, and more specifically how this is being achieved through the reworking and remediating of personal stories through film. By way of two case studies, I will examine how the remediation or integration of personal stories is employed to create affect with regards to the traumatic histories they represent. The first case study is the Anne Frank video diary (2020), a YouTube series by the Anne Frank House, revealing how this series takes up the ‘authentic’ traces and narrative of Anne Frank’s story to bring it to life for a younger generation. Next, I focus on They Call Me Babu (2019), a film by Sandra Beerends that employs archival footage to tell the fictional story of Alima, a young Indonesian woman who works as a nanny for a Dutch family during colonial times. Here, I discuss the complexities of constructing a new ‘Indonesian’ narrative from footage taken from the Dutch colonial perspective. Within this thesis, I will argue that a personal story brought to life through film further supports or authenticates a given narrative, as well as allowing for affect, identification, and a shift in perspective.
This thesis would not have been possible were it not for the help, advice and support of a good number of people. I would like to thank my supervisor, Professor Dr. Ihab Saloul, who is the person who first led me to study Heritage & Memory Studies at the UvA. I had been searching for a masters programme that would allow me to deepen my understanding of the value given to cultural objects and practices, and how persons come to identify and remember by way of them. Prof. Saloul’s presentation at the UvA’s masters open day introduced me to a field that explored just this. Your classes have taught me a great deal, and I am honoured to have had such a sharp minded academic to guide my work on this thesis. Furthermore, I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Dr. Tamara van Kessel, who went out of her way to encourage me and my fellow coursemates during a most challenging time of lockdowns and setbacks. This master’s programme would not be what it is if not for the energy and care that you give to your students, and the extra lengths you go to to ensure we get the most out of it despite the difficult circumstances. A big thank you also goes out to Dr. David Duindam, whom I am very grateful to have on board as my second reader.
I would especially like to thank my amazing coursemates, and in particular Kavya Venkatraman and Umberto Santi, for all of the study sessions, pep talks and proof reading. It is truly inspiring to be part of such a bright, passionate and compassionate group of people, and this has been the part of the masters I am most grateful for.
Finally, I want to thank my family and closest friends in the Netherlands, Belgium and beyond for their incredible support always. Above all, I am infinitely grateful for the loving support I continue to receive from my brilliant mother, Margreet Peutz.
Abstract ……… 1
Acknowledgements ……..………. 2
Content ……… 3
Introduction ….……… 4
Chapter 1: Theory ……… 7
PART 1: Constructing cultural trauma & the role of remediation ……….. 7
PART 2: Dutch memory cultures & the end of the age of witness ……… 8
PART 3: Remediating traces & appealing to new audiences ……… 13
Chapter 2: Anne Frank video diary ………. 17
Introduction ……..………. 17
PART 1: The Anne Frank House ………. 17
PART 2: Analysis of the Anne Frank video diary ………. 20
PART 3: Media witnessing the Holocaust ……… 23
Conclusion ………. 26
Chapter 3: They Call Me Babu …..……….. 28
Introduction ……..………. 28
PART 1: Colonial family films within Dutch national archives ………. 28
PART 2: Analysis of They Call Me Babu .………. 32
PART 3: Seeking an Indonesian perspective ……….. 37
Conclusion ………. 41
Conclusion ……… 43
Bibliography …..……….. 48
Figures ………..……..………. 51
One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who have suffered just as she did but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way; if we were capable of taking in all the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.
Primo Levi (1986; 52)
Of the traumatic histories pertaining to this thesis, an estimated six million Jewish victims were murdered during the Holocaust, and over 150,000 Indonesians died during the fight for independence. Of course, these statistics barely scratch the surface. Both the Holocaust and European colonialism have impacted and continue to impact the lives of many millions. This quote by Primo Levi however, points to the basis of this thesis; namely, the affective power of personal stories for approaching traumatic histories, and shaping cultural remembrance.
Although each story presents only one account among many, personal stories affect us much more than extensive factual or historical accounts. The work of psychologist Paul Slovic demonstrates that a singular, personal story can stir a lot more in us than an abstract statistic. Research conducted by Slovic and
colleagues shows that people tend to value individual lives greatly, but these lives lose their value when they become part of a larger crisis (Slovic, 2020; 8). The sheer amount of victims of atrocities lies beyond the scope of our human understanding of suffering, and the true meaning behind these statistics escapes us.
Although genocides are real and devastating, we seemingly do not ‘feel’ their reality and seem unable to comprehend the extent of their devastation (Slovic, 2007; 80). Paradoxically, to make atrocities “feel real”, we turn to fiction; or rather to stories, images and representations to bring feelings and meaning to tragedy.
Individual stories capture our attention, and allow us to glimpse a difficult reality at a scale we can
understand and connect to emotionally. Through their powerful potential for creating affect in the audience, single stories authenticate and solidify the moral importance of remembering a traumatic past.
This thesis examines how the affective power of personal stories is being harnessed for the remembrance of traumatic pasts of the Netherlands, by examining two recent projects that attempt to bring the personal back into cultural memory discourses through various film media. My main research questions for the thesis are:
‘How are personal stories mediated through film being used to reimagine heritage narratives surrounding Holocaust and Colonial histories of the Netherlands?’, and ‘What impact do such projects have on the authenticity, affect and identification of/with such narratives?’. The first chapter of this thesis will set out the theoretical framework necessary to approach these questions. The following two chapters will depart from two different case studies, starting with the Anne Frank Video Diary, a YouTube series by the Anne Frank House. In the third chapter, I focus on They Call Me Babu (Dutch title ‘Ze noemen me babu’), a 2019
documentary film directed by Sandra Beerends which tells the story of an Indonesian woman who works as a nanny for a Dutch family during colonial times.
While the first case study relates to Holocaust remembrance, the second relates to the telling of colonial histories. Holocaust and colonial histories both become catalysts for approaching memory studies in a new way, and they are both examples of changing cultural remembrance (Erll, 2008; 9). For Holocaust
remembrance, the end of the age of witness brought about a major change in the forms of cultural
remembrance as we are now solely dependent on media to transmit experience. Postcolonial narratives are similarly undergoing major changes, in that colonial histories are beginning to be understood as cultural traumas in need of proper remembrance also. The traumatic nature of the histories behind my chosen case studies is thus central, as traumatic memory processes further feed into the remediation of these narratives.
With regards to both cases, I will review how certain shared heritage narratives of Holocaust and colonial histories are performed by and ‘remediated' through various film related media. The term ‘remediation’
refers to the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms, whereby each act of mediation depends on other acts of mediation (Bolter & Grusin, 1999; 273). Beyond simply performing and
perpetuating heritage narratives, I aim to demonstrate how these narratives are actively shaped through representations. As discussed earlier, the moral message of heritage narratives is not fixed but rather continuously being revised in subsequent stories, with different emphases being made or new approaches being taken (Frank, 2008; 242-244). Both projects that I will be looking at within this thesis are in some way reshaping the heritage narratives they mediate; they attempt to offer a new interpretation of these narratives in terms of who they are representing, as well as who they are hoping to address and affect.
The case studies differ greatly in terms of the mediators who produced them, each revealing the hugely important but complex relation of the mediator to the history they represent. Here, issues of voice and power are interrelated (Smith, 2008; 270), due to the fact that personal narratives are being utilised to support or rework institutional narratives. For instance, the Anne Frank Video Diary supports the current institutional narrative of the Anne Frank House, aiming to stay as close as possible to Anne’s original voice and to reenact her diary in a way that will resonate with young audiences. In the case of They Call Me Babu, footage taken from national archives which was originally recorded to document the experiences of Dutch colonial families, is used to evoke the experiences of an Indonesian colonial subject.
Both case studies demonstrate the impact of personal stories on the reimagining of heritage narratives, and their power in renegotiating traces and archival footage. Each project departs from differing traces, through which experiential authenticity is secured for its narrative. In the first case study, the film project finds its basis in a real personal story and the authentic traces still existing within the Anne Frank House. These traces and narrative are subsequently reimagined and remediated through film and a social media format. In the second case study, the film presents its audience with a fictional story, authenticated by way of archival material sourced from national film archives. As such, these chapters explore a different relation between authenticity, narrative and affect, while also conjuring up questions surrounding the identification with these heritage narratives.
In my conclusion, I will argue that the Anne Frank video diary and They Call Me Babu both utilise a personal story told by way of an affective first-person narration, in order to shift the perspective on the traumatic histories they represent. By offering a singular, emotive account and involving both fictional and
‘authentic’ elements, each aims to inspire empathy and identification, and to enable an ‘authentic’
experiencing of the past. Through the interplay between images, music and narrative, both film projects evoke feelings of melancholy and nostalgia in the viewer, hereby bringing the audience closer into the experience of Anne and Alima. Furthermore, I will argue that the process of remediation behind the two case studies differs greatly due to the current position their respective histories hold within Dutch memory culture.
Both case studies build on the existing memory frames surrounding their respective histories, recycling the symbolic imagery and familiar myths of cultural memory in order to support the ‘authentic imagining’ of each story. Both can be seen as responding to the so-called ‘end of the age of witness’, which poses new challenges to Dutch memory culture surrounding both the Holocaust and colonial histories. As remediations are made to stand in for disappearing witnesses, new spaces emerge within which the complexities and particularities behind traumatic histories of the 20th century can be explored.
CHAPTER 1: THEORY
PART 1: Constructing cultural trauma & the role of remediation
In order to understand how the two projects examined in this thesis operate and the function they have within cultural memory, it is necessary to first explore the role of remediation in cultural memory processes, and perhaps even the dynamics of cultural memory itself. Many scholars in the field of memory studies have employed Pierre Nora’s concept of ‘lieux de memoire’, used to describe certain ‘memory sites’ in which a shared remembrance is manifested. Memory sites can be anything from monuments, to icons or particular figures that may feature heavily in public history or a collective consciousness, and the importance of such memory sites for the formation of a cultural memory has often been underlined. However, Anne Rigney has pointed out that these memory sites are ‘constantly being reinvested with new meaning’, and that they should be conceptualised as an ongoing process of remembrance rather than something stable or fixed (Rigney, 2008; 346). Rather than being set within specific sites or texts, memory is performed through them. Thus, Rigney suggests a shift from ‘sites’ to ‘dynamics’ within memory studies, moving from a focus on cultural artefacts to an interest in the way those artefacts circulate and influence their environment (Rigney 2008;
346) As such, Rigney’s ideas also helped open up memory studies to the study of mediatization and remediation, and how these processes aid the construction of memory (Brunow, 2015; 4).
In Memory in Culture, Astrid Erll emphasises the power of popular culture and its mass media to mould our images of the past, pointing out that ‘mass culture and the possibilities for remembrance it offers can be enabling for individuals and social groups’, and that audiences played an active role in appropriating media of popular memory (Erll, 2011; 136). Erll points out that what is culturally remembered about any given story ‘usually refers not so much to what one might cautiously call the ‘original’ or the ‘actual’ events, but instead to a palimpsestic structure of existent media representations. As Erll notes, cultural memory is heavily dependent on media technologies and the circulation of media products (Erll, 2008; 9). Media are continually commenting on, reproducing, and replacing each other, a process which Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin term ‘remediation’ (Bolter & Grusin, 1999; 55). Remediation can be understood as the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms, a process whereby each act of mediation depends on other acts of mediation (Bolter & Grusin, 1999; 273). By way of repeated representation occurring across different media, remediation solidifies certain narratives of the past, and allows them to be absorbed into cultural memory (Erll, 2011; 141).
Erll and Rigney show that memory is always mediated, with cultural memory accessible only through its media specific forms and genres. These media forms include memorials, documents, photographs and historiographic works, but also everything from newspaper articles, TV programmes, diaries, novels, plays, paintings and feature films, to YouTube videos and social media status updates. As James E. Young points out, “none of us coming to the Holocaust afterwards can know these events outside the ways they are passed down to us” (Young, 1988; vii). Thus, media texts are not just ‘externalisations’ of cultural memory, but instead the construction of that memory is inextricably linked to its specific media forms (Brunow, 2015; 4).
The media we consume are formative of the cultural memory we share in, and the historical events we conceive of are created by way of the many media forms that shape our knowledge of them.
Media representations and their remediation are also central to the remembrance of traumatic histories, and how these first become understood or felt as traumatic. As Jeffrey Alexander describes in his book Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, cultural trauma is not a direct result of a traumatic event itself, but rather the result of a particular ‘trauma process’ which allows for an event to be conceived of as traumatic at the level of collectivity (Alexander, 2004; 10). According to Alexander, it is through representations that an event becomes culturally constructed as a cultural trauma. Furthermore, the effectiveness of trauma representations within the trauma process depends on the extent to which members of the audience can identify with the victimised group. In order for the audience to be emotionally invested in the experience of the trauma in this manner, the victims must in first instance be represented in terms of valued qualities shared by the larger collective identity (Alexander, 2004; 14). In facilitating such identification, widely distributed dramatisations of specific histories can play an important role for the construction of cultural memory in a specific historical context. As what Erll terms ‘memory films’, fiction films can act as distributors of ‘memory images’ that can shape the image or feeling an audience has concerning the history depicted. However, memory films operate in this way only provided that in the process of reception a multiplicity of pluri-medial networks turn it into a medium of collective memory; an amalgam of reviews, marketing strategies, awards, political speeches or academic debates, discussions and controversies constitute the collective contexts which determine a film’s reception and further remediation (Erll, 2008; 396).
PART 2: Dutch memory cultures & the end of the age of witness
Processes of cultural memory and remediation are all the more relevant when studying the cultural memory of both Holocaust and colonial histories of the Netherlands, and in understanding how these histories are remembered today. It is only via medial externalisation that cultural traumas can take shape and narratives can be communicated, but within contemporary fast paced media societies this fact becomes all the more visible. We are brought into contact with past events through increasingly advanced media, and therefore we
‘witness’ historical events in, by, and through the media that permeate our daily lives. The term ‘media witnessing’, coined by Paul Frosh, is used to describe the way in which witnessing is performed through current media, hereby communicating the experiences of distant others to mass audiences (Frosh &
Pinchevski, 2009; 1). In offering an experience of the past, films and audiovisual texts frequently appropriate preexisting recorded sounds and images to serve as historical evidence, and these appropriations significantly shape the way in which we feel to be a witness to the past. Furthermore, these texts hereby produce what Roland Barthes referred to as a ‘reality effect’, giving the audience the sense of directly experiencing the past itself rather than a mediated representation (Brunow, 2015; 222-223).
At present, memory of the Holocaust as well as colonial memory are undergoing changes, due to the fact that the age of direct witnesses who can personally communicate their experiences is drawing to a close. As Roy Brand aptly points out, the figure of witness is hugely important in articulating cultural trauma, not to testify
to the facts, but ‘to testify to the fact that the event cannot be reduced to facts’ (Brand, 2009; 209). First- person witness accounts ground trauma not in sterile statistics about the precipitating event but in specific human perceptions, actions, and feelings. These accounts give life to the statistics, and grant a depth and emotional salience to traumatic histories (Hirst, Cyr & Merck, 2020; 593). With the disappearance of what Aleida and Jan Assmann have termed ‘communicative memory’, the telling of both Holocaust and colonial histories will soon be available solely through representations. Instead of memory based on personal, first- hand experiences, knowledge of the Holocaust as well as that of the Dutch East Indies will depend entirely on cultural memory, which is mediated by representation (Magilow, 2020; 659). In light of this, visual media’s potential for bringing an audience closer to the past becomes more valuable than ever. Films that forefront personal stories become all the more vital, as they give audiences access to increasingly distant traumatic histories by way of identification. By allowing these histories emotional resonance, they also insure their continued cultural relevance and conception as a cultural trauma.
The Holocaust and its icons
In order to explore how the Netherlands remembers traumatic histories and how these remembrances have been transformed so far, I again return to trauma theory. According to Alexander, in order to be successfully received, all trauma representations must pass through an cultural, interpretive grid which is symbolically structured and sociologically determined, which mediates them emotionally, cognitively, and morally (Alexander, 2004; 201). This fits in with Frank van Vree’s concept of ‘memory frames’ presented in Absent Memories. Van Vree argues that in order for personal memories to be turned into meaningful stories there has to be ‘a proper frame, to make these memories understandable for others’ (van Vree, 2013; 10).
In the case of Holocaust memory, a proper frame still had to be constructed after WWII for the testimonies of Holocaust victims to be heard and given a place within collective memory, and for a cultural trauma to form around events and their telling. For this to happen, figures such as Dutch Holocaust victim Anne Frank first became universalised, and made relatable for a world audience. According to Tim Cole in Selling the Holocaust, the screenplay of the Broadway play based off her diary downplayed Anne’s Jewishness and edited her words to make them of a more ‘universal significance’. Furthermore, many versions of the diary were edited to suit the sensibilities of an intended audience, such as the German edition which initially edited out anti-German sentiments (Cole, 1999; 28), and personal edits by Otto Frank that excluded passages that were perceived as either damaging towards Anne’s perceived ‘innocence’ (Cole, 1999; 29) or to the memory of the other inhabitants of the annex. By way of this universalised rendering, Anne Frank’s story was able to kickstart conversations about the Holocaust, and encourage collectivities to mourn Holocaust victims and reflect on their fate. This mediation allows social groups to gradually ‘take on board’ significant moral responsibility, insofar as they identify the cause of trauma (Alexander, 2004; 232). As Yehuda Bauer writes:
‘It was the distorted diary that became an important catalyst for the penetration of the Holocaust into the consciousness of many millions, being the most widely read book and one of the most effective plays and films about the subject. It created the backdrop for undistorted and authentic presentations.’ (Cole, 1999; 45)
In order for trauma to be experienced at the collective level, according to Jeffrey Alexander certain essential questions must be answered, and answers to these questions change over time (Alexander, 2004; 201).
Initially, dramatisations worked to construct and broadcast the tragic narrative of the Holocaust, allowing for a memory frame to emerge due to how they personalised the trauma and its characters (Alexander, 2004;
231). Anne Frank’s diary can be seen as the prototype of this personalising genre, with its collective representation eventually evolving via a phase of Americanisation into ‘a universal symbol of suffering and transcendence’ (Alexander, 2004; 232). However, in terms of its function as testimony, the diary has thus been manipulated and reshaped to support the emergence of Holocaust myths, that fit into certain moralistic narratives of the present rather than reflect the reality of what happened in the past. It has since become clear that the universal lesson of tolerance and moral triumph over evil of its original Americanised format has come to obscure the specific and situated historical reality of the murder of the European Jewry (Cole, 1999;
42). A renewed interest in the Holocaust has seen Anne Frank’s status as Jewish victim restated (Cole, 1999;
39), and at present the task has become undoing some of the universalisation at work within the established memory frame of the Holocaust, in order to return to a particularised view of Holocaust stories. This is especially important now that the last witnesses of the Holocaust otherwise capable of providing these more particularised accounts are disappearing. Rather than maintain a generalised universalised narrative, Anne Frank’s story is thus being returned to its original personalised state, in order to touch on the real traumatic core truth that her life shows us.
Achieving the status of a Holocaust icon by way of this sea of different mediations and remediations, Anne’s story has been adopted and commodified as a universal story of victimhood. However, in light of the end of
‘the age of witness’, institutions such as the Anne Frank House are refocusing on the particularities of their museum stories and the affective power of the personal. Holocaust museums are now trying to stay as close as possible to the testimonies of victims, evidences and documents of wartime witness. Indeed, diaries provide some of the most sustained examples of wartime witness, with some four hundred having come to the surface after the war (Rosen, 2020; 453) The real testimonial power of these documents lies in their personal nature, and in how they describe the particularities of the writer’s situation. These personal accounts reveal complexity, and a full spectrum of atrocities and emotional devastation. As David Boder once
explained, although one person can never tell enough and present things how they were, a total picture can be assembled by forming a mosaic from the personal accounts of many (Rosen, 2020; 464). As such, there is now a need for many stories to be told, rather than one story representing all.
Dutch colonial history and its silences
In the case of the cultural memory surrounding the Dutch colonial history with Indonesia, the process of popular remediation has only just begun. Only now are historical dramas concerning the colonial history with Indonesia coming into theatres, such as most recently the Dutch language film ‘De Oost’ (2021).
Surprising perhaps, considering the long shared colonial history. Formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, Indonesia became a Dutch colony known as ‘the Dutch East Indies’ in 1800.
The Netherlands profited tremendously from colonising Indonesia, rising to global prominence in the spice and cash crop trade in the 19th to early 20th century. Indonesia remained under the administration of
the Dutch government until the Dutch East Indies were occupied by Japan during World War II, after which Indonesian freedom fighter and nationalist leader Sukarno declared Indonesian independence on the 17th of August 1945. After World War II, the Netherlands attempted to restore its authority by military force, and four and a half years of guerrilla warfare followed. On 27 December 1949, the Netherlands finally gave in to both Indonesian and international pressures; the country officially recognised the sovereignty of the Sukarno government, marking the end of its colonial era. In the post-WWII period in Europe, waves of colonial nostalgia emerged in personal memoirs, tropical chic couture, and films romanticising life in the colonies (Stoler & Strassler, 2000; 4). The Netherlands has its own variant of colonial nostalgia, namely ‘tempo doeloe culture’, which celebrates ‘the good old days’ of colonial life in Indonesia. Nonetheless, oftentimes in public debate in the Netherlands critics claim that the colonial violence perpetrated by the Dutch in the East Indies has been forgotten. Dutch historians, the media and the government are regularly accused of
perpetuating a ‘Dutch colonial amnesia’, by furthering tempo doeloe culture while withholding from the Dutch public the darker truths of the Netherlands’ colonial past (Bijl, 2012; 445-446).
Despite reoccurring claims that the colonial past has been swept under the rug and forgotten, historian Paul Bijl argues that the traces of colonial violence such as photographs and other documents of colonial atrocity have always been widely present in the public sphere of the Netherlands, and that the difficulty lies in giving meaning to them within established frames of remembrance (Bijl, 2012; 441). Bijl believes that the victims of Dutch colonialism are not ‘memorable’ within a national context due to there being no language available to discuss them as a part of Dutch history. He writes that the fate of colonial subjects seems to lie outside national history and collective Dutch concerns, and that ‘dominant discourses do not produce them as belonging to Dutch national history’. In the education system and public sphere in general, the dominant images portray the Dutch either as resilient and independent, victimised (by the Germans during World War II), or tolerant and leading in international human rights affairs. Incorporating Dutch colonial violence within the national cultural memory implies the recognition of Dutch perpetratorship, which clashes with these preconceived notions of Dutchness throughout history (Bijl, 2012; 450). Dutch nation and the Dutch empire are mostly seen as separate, and as such critics who wish for colonial violence to be given a prominent and structural position within Dutch cultural memory have up until now failed to convince the nation that this indeed should be the case. Furthermore, the nation’s non-white population is systematically excluded from notions of Dutchness, making it even harder for Dutch Indonesians to be included within its cultural memory (Bijl, 2012; 450-451).
In Indonesia, memories of colonialism also seem at odds with the country’s current memory discourses, and within Indonesian society the often dissonant accounts of its history challenge the formation of a single straightforward story about its colonial past (Bijl, 2012; 457-458). While conducting interviews as part of a study on colonial domestic life in Java, Ann Laura Stoler and Karen Strassler found that Indonesians who had worked as servants in Dutch colonial homes seemed unused to relating their colonial experiences and recollecting their memories of the colonial everyday. Questions about servant life in the 1930s and early 1940s often provoked a swift change of subject rather than the telling of well-honed stories, with
interviewees redirecting the interviews to other periods such as the Japanese occupation (Stoler & Strassler, 2000; 45). In Indonesia, they found that the Japanese occupation is remembered as ‘the oppressively dark
period before national liberation, with Dutch colonialism typically invoked as a benign contrast and as a time of normalcy’ (Stoler & Strassler, 2000; 12). As such, in Indonesian popular memory and official history, the Dutch and Japanese periods are ‘discursively paired, mnemonically fused to such an extent that they cannot be accessed independently’(Stoler & Strassler, 2000; 45). For many former servants, the ravages of World War II and the volatility of the Revolution years (and subsequent periods) prompted reworked recollections of the ‘zaman Belanda’ (‘the Dutch period’) as one of relative personal security, hereby casting a different light on both the quotidian and the extraordinary violences of Dutch rule (Stoler & Strassler, 2000; 12-13).
As a result of this fusing, Indonesian memories of the colonial period cannot be easily organised according to the opposition of a colonial past and a postcolonial present. Furthermore, since its independence, history in Indonesia has been tightly controlled, male, heroic and nationalistic, leaving little space for the oral histories of former servants that seemed to lay outside these dominant narratives (Stoler & Strassler, 2000; 39). These oral histories lack a shared narrative frame, and thus "the colonial" was rarely a discrete domain of
experience or retelling. With no clear frame of their own, they exist simply as ‘an unhomogenized body of accounts built around the minimal scaffolds of sanctioned formulas’ the telling of which holds little relevance within the current historical narratives of Indonesia (Stoler & Strassler, 2000; 14).
Although Europe’s colonial past is still omnipresent in its cityscapes, monuments, symbols and political battles, a collective frame of remembrance has not yet been formed around colonial violence. With the formation of the European Union and its inclusion of eastern European countries, former colonial and
colonised states have been brought into the same nominal membership group, further impeding the formation of a collective frame of remembrance for European colonialism. Whereas a shared cultural trauma has been constructed out of the memory of WWII, this collective narrative of victimhood and heroism frequently eclipses ‘another less convenient memory: that of overseas colonisation and decolonisation, and their vestiges in the national and international narratives of a globalised world’ (Nicolaidis, Sebe & Maas, 2015;
1). While the Holocaust proved instrumental to the formation of the European Union by unifying all of Europe as a ‘community of memory’ committed to the famous motto ‘never again’, colonial histories mostly fall outside of national or European remembrances. We cannot speak of a properly European ‘colonial past’, but rather only of a series of national colonial pasts, of which the Dutch colonial past is one.
As opposed to Holocaust remembrance in the Netherlands, Dutch colonial remembrance lacks a clear memory frame that allows it to fit in with the dominant discourses of Dutch history. However, with the end of the age of witness near, the space for a new memory frame may be opening up. In March 2020, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands made an official state visit to Indonesia, during which the king offered an apology for Dutch misdeeds during the so-called 'police actions’ that took place shortly after WWII. It was the first state visit to Indonesia since that of Queen Beatrix in 1995, where the Queen spoke about sensitivities concerning the colonial past, but offered no apologies on behalf of the Netherlands. The Queen had been advised against making apologies, so as not to offend Dutch veterans who fought to defend Dutch interests in the Independence War. For years, Dutch heads of state thus avoided this controversial topic. Today, however, most veterans have passed away and an increasing awareness and moral
condemnation of colonialism has resulted in a strong societal push for the Netherlands to make apologies and reparations for its colonial history.
Ahead of the 2020 state visit, Dutch Indonesian historian Lara Nuberg stressed the necessity of a public apology in acknowledging the colonial history of the Netherlands, not only in Indonesia, but also within the Netherlands itself with regards to the second and third generation of Dutch Indonesians. She said: “We know the history of the persecution of the Jews very well, and rightly so, more than rightly so. But people know very little about our history. From that incomplete picture, apologies then seem less necessary.” (NOS, 2020).
Indeed, presently there is a pressing need for Dutch Indonesian history to be acknowledged within Dutch cultural memory. However, rather than the current picture being incomplete, the frames of remembrance that were initially constructed after WWII that surround it have become outdated. These frames were first established to universalise stories and unify European audiences in the wake of a devastating war, but they have now proven too narrow to contain the multiplicity of particular narratives and personal stories to be discovered within both Holocaust and colonial histories. In order to meet the needs of the present, these frames need to be opened up to personal stories that break away from generalised historical myth, to offer the audience particular memories and intimate insights into the experiences of the past.
PART 3: Remediating traces, appealing to new audiences
With the passing of the generation that witnessed and experienced the events of the previous century, it has become increasingly clear that learning about the Holocaust and Dutch colonial history will rely less on public speakers and more on audio-visual testimonies and second and third generation accounts (Manca, 2020; 1). Furthermore, visual culture has become predominant in the younger generations and in particular among those of post-memory (Manca, 2020; 1), and as such it becomes important to remediate older forms of testimony so as to allow continued engagement with them. In reworking the frames of remembrance surrounding both Holocaust and colonial histories in the Netherlands, processes of remediation are thus hugely instrumental. By taking familiar stories, images and evidences, and recasting them in new media forms, audiences are made to reflect on historical myths.
In theorising remediation, Bolter and Grusin write that its goal is to refashion other media, and herein to reform the reality imbedded within these mediations as well (Bolter & Grusin, 1999; 52). What is more, Bolter and Grusin describe a ‘double logic of remediation’, which oscillates between ‘immediacy’ and
‘hypermediacy’. While immediacy is connected to how media strive to offer a more immediate or authentic experience, hypermediacy is defined as ‘a style of visual representation whose goal is to remind the viewer of the medium’ (Bolter & Grusin, 1999; 272). As opposed to immediacy, hypermediacy foregrounds the processes of mediatisation (Erll, 2011; 129). However, oftentimes hypermediacy serves to create immediacy, with remediation being used to ‘endow media representations of the past with an aura of authenticity.’ (Erll, 2011; 141) For instance, a 3D film or a virtual tour might promise a more immediate experience of its subject or object, yet this immediacy is only made possible through the unique mediated experience offered by way of the technology behind it—which becomes the main attraction and selling point of both media. As Astrid
Erll explains, so-called ‘hypermedia’ often integrate older media which are commonly held to have
‘witnessed’ the past, such as historical photographs and archival footage. The indexical relation that these media forms have to the past means they are interpreted as representing reality, hereby producing a ‘reality effect’ (Erll, 2011; 46). A fiction film hereby seems endemically linked to the historical events it depicts, creating the illusion of a seemingly transparent ‘window’ on the past. This according to Erll makes the audience forget the presence of the medium, and instead presents them with ‘the illusion of an unmediated memory’ (Erll, 2011; 140).
Oscillating between creating ‘the experience of the real’ and ‘the experience of the medium’, this double logic of remediation is thus present within the operations of memory films and media projects (Erll, 2011;
140). Hollywood historical dramas oftentimes incorporate or re-enact archival newsreel footage or press photographs so as to employ the ‘reality effect’ of these media forms. Films can greatly differ in terms of media technology, degrees of fictionalisation and memory functions, yet the illusion of an unmediated access to the past is achieved only by way of these remediations (Erll, 2011; 130). Somewhere between
documentary films and memory films, the film projects looked at in this thesis both heavily rely on remediation processes in representing the personal stories they tell. Furthermore, film can act both as a (fictional) representation of history (‘historical film’) as well as an archival source (‘historical footage’), and these aspects are increasing blurred in ‘docufictions’, which mix historical footage with fictional
reenactments of past events (Erll, 2011; 136). Both the Anne Frank video diary and They Call Me Babu blur the lines between fact and fiction, as they both take creative liberties while simultaneously basing their narrative off the experiences and testimonies of real people at certain moments of Dutch history. By re- enacting the past or re-appropriating the archive, these projects take up traces of the past and reform them.
Furthermore, mediations also create new relationships: between the creator of this new work and its subject and audience, as well as between the new work and other works (Kirshenblatt-Gimble & Shandler, 2012; 7).
The two case studies each approach this aim from a different angle, and are looking to reshape heritage narratives towards their own particular end. Both were produced by very different actors who occupy varying positions with regards to the represented histories of each. These actors are the so-called ‘mediators’ who film, direct, edit and broadcast personal stories or testimonies (Ashuri & Pinchevski, 2020; 138), according to their own ideas on what is important to capture and communicate. As Sidonie Smith writes in Who’s Talking/Who’s Talking Back?, personal narratives immerse us in complex issues of representation, ideology, history, identity, and politics as they bear on subjectivity (Smith, 2008; 264). She writes that personal stories often emerge ‘through acts of collaboration, bringing together a subject who narrates the story orally and another subject who collects, transcribes, organises, and edits that story’ (Smith, 2008; 269). However, the mediator in this role of second subject maintains control over the narrative, and by implication over the purposes to which the story is put.
Affect and the ‘authentic’ experience of the past
Both projects attempt to offer a more immediate or authentic experience, and to render their histories increasingly affective (Bolter & Grusin, 1999; 17). That is, both projects aim to make audiences feel for the characters, and by extension the real persons who lived through the historical events depicted.
As Brunow writes, media actively constructs cultural memory through aesthetic means such as framing and lighting, the use of music or the use of interviews and testimonial witnesses (Brunow, 2015; 194). Through these means media texts also produce affect, creating what Ann Cvetkovich calls ‘resonant juxtapositions between past and present’ whose power lies in their ability to touch the viewer (Baron, 2014; 159). Writing about films, Victoria Walden accentuates that visual media can emphasise the distance between past and present, whilst simultaneously trying to bring the spectator close to the events depicted (Walden, 2019; 49).
Although the actual moment of the past cannot be accessed, Walden argues that through media we ‘negotiate between past and present’, and contribute to a collaborative memory of the real that once was (Walden, 2019;
78). Performing traumatic histories through their various means, mediations allow what Paul Frosh and Amit Pinchevski term ‘media witnessing’. In Witnessing Trauma on Film, Roy Brand writes that to witness is to
‘stand in for the absence of experience’, but that in doing so, ‘witnessing recalls the very absence it attempts to resolve’ (Brand, 2009; 199). The film projects of this thesis also perform loss in this sense; they place the viewer in the position of a witness, midway between a loss and its narration (Brand, 2009; 206). This position forces the viewer to struggle for comprehension, and the fact that the gap between an event and its representation can never entirely be bridged only serves to maintain this act of witnessing (Brand, 2009;
This gap between past and present, an event and its representation, a trace and its narrative, ties into discussions of authenticity, and the desire for an ‘authentic’ experience of the past. In On Longing, Susan Stewart reflects on the concept of nostalgia, which she explains as arising from two assumptions: the assumption that immediate lived experience is more ‘real’ and ‘bearing within itself an authenticity which cannot be transferred to mediated experience’, together with the contradictory assumption that the mediated experience known through narrative can offer pattern and insight by virtue of its ‘capacity for
transcendence.’(Stewart, 1993; 23) Stewart argues that nostalgia is always ideological, and that ‘the past it seeks has never existed except as narrative’ (Stewart, 1993; 23). Narrative can never be at one with its object, and the quality and temporality of media can never fully approximate or capture that of the unmediated experience. The absence and inaccessibility of the past is what creates nostalgic desire, and the ‘narrative utopia’ which is the imagined reunion with the past is only possible by virtue of the partiality of traces, and its lack of fixity and closure (Stewart, 1993; 23). Both film projects discussed in this thesis produce their own kind of nostalgia, as they bring to life the traces of the past through narrative and aesthetic means. In doing so, they mourn the inaccessibility of the personal lived experience they represent, making tangible its absence through the mediated experience.
In this way, the interplay between ‘authentic’ traces and their narrative interpretation produces various affects that in the words of Melissa Gregg and Gregory Seigworth can ‘make us feel, write, think and act in different
ways’ (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010; 14). This reveals the political dimensions of affect, and the delicate balance memory films must navigate while approaching the representation of a traumatic past, so that it can affect viewers in a powerful, empathic manner. As Allison Landsberg argues in Engaging the Past, in order for real historical knowledge to be produced through film, it must draw the viewer in while still maintaining a fundamental distance from the past. Although it is commonly held that emotional involvement in the form of identification is a powerful tool for film, according to Landsberg, dramatic film that engenders deep identification with the characters and events of the past can foster an illusory sense that the viewer truly understands another person’s position or how the past felt to those who lived then, when in actuality this obstructs true understanding (Landsberg, 2015; 35). Instead of abandoning their own subject position through identification, Landsberg suggests the viewer be ‘encouraged to feel himself or herself while encountering up close something foreign.’ She continues: ‘Historical texts with an affective mode of address invite viewers not so much to put themselves in the protagonist’s place but rather to see the protagonist’s world up close; they are positioned not to be the protagonist but to listen to him or her.’ (Landsberg, 2015;
21) Landsberg terms this ‘affective engagement’, and emphasises that this form of engagement demands a fundamental distance be maintained between the viewer and the past that is represented. She believes the affective engagements that draw the viewer in must be coupled with other modes that assert the alien nature of the past and the viewer’s fundamental distance from it (Landsberg, 2015; 10), as according to Gregg and Seigworth ‘affect arises in the midst of in-between-ness’ (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010; 2). As such, the films with the greatest potential to produce historical knowledge are not necessarily the most acclaimed ones, but rather those that foreground mediation and prevent the viewer from losing themselves in the illusion (Landsberg, 2015; 59).
In examining the two case studies within this thesis, I will explore how each case remediates prior media forms and traces of the past, how the narrative is being presented and from whose perspective, as well as how each produces affect. In both cases, ‘authentic’ traces of the past are being remediated, and the dynamic between the absence and presence of the past is present in the many different layers of its construction. The Anne Frank video diary remediates the powerful affective emptiness of the museum and the object
authenticity of the diary itself, while They Call Me Babu remediates archival footage to authenticate a new narrative that takes the audience through the images. Within the narrative of the Anne Frank video diary, Anne is yearning for a time before that of the story, that of her carefree childhood in Amsterdam before the nazi occupation. Within the narrative of They Call Me Babu, Alima is yearning for a time before that of the story also. Addressing her monologue to her late mother, Alima mourns the time when she was still alive, and wishes she could confide in her her experiences. Such projects have an ethical potential for transforming heritage narratives, as the affect they produce can aid in shifting perspectives, and allowing an audience to identify with them in new ways.
CHAPTER 2: ANNE FRANK VIDEO DIARY
From the 30th of March until the 4th of May 2020, the Anne Frank House released a series of 15 episodes of the ‘Anne Frank video diary’ to their YouTube channel. This online series follows the story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish victim of the Holocaust, reimagined as though Anne Frank had received a camera for her 13th birthday rather than the famous checkered notebook which would become her diary. While everything else is kept as historically accurate as possible and in line with Anne’s original diary which she began writing from June 1942, now Anne speaks directly to a camera to relate intimate reflections of her two years in hiding from the Nazis during WWII.
As we approach the end of ‘the age of witness’, institutions like the Anne Frank House are refocusing on the particularities of their museum stories and the affective power of the personal. In this chapter, I will analyse the Anne Frank Video Diary, and how this project attempts to return to Anne’s own voice. I will argue that through this series, the Anne Frank House re-enacts and reimagines Anne’s diary in a way that appeals to a young audience today, allowing it to function as a social media witnessing text that compliments the affective emptiness of the museum. In order to do so, I will first discuss the Anne Frank House itself, and how experiential authenticity is achieved at the physical museum. Herein I will demonstrate that the emptiness the museum stages and the experiential authenticity it proffers relies on the interplay between absence and presence, and that it is this dynamic that the Anne Frank House has utilised to lend affective power to its museum stories. Furthermore, I will analyse how the video series produces affect and identification in an audience, by way of its editing, sound score and contemporary ‘vlog’ style mode of address.
PART 1: The Anne Frank House
Returning to Anne Frank’s voice
The Anne Frank video diary was created for The Anne Frank House, the museum situated at the former hiding place of Anne Frank, located at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam. It is the original location at which Anne Frank lived and wrote her now famous diary from 1942 to 1944, and features the original bookcase which hid the entrance to the secret annex, as well as the original diary and notebooks in which Anne documented her experiences. Facing the new challenges to Holocaust remembrance discussed in the theory chapter, the Anne Frank House has also had to adapt to the demands of the present. The American
popularisation of Anne Frank’s diary is what allowed Otto Frank to obtain permission from the city government to rescue Prinsengracht 263 from demolition, and restore its annex to be made into a museum.
As a result the institution originally served a universalistic educational agenda, situated within an explicitly ethics based framework. When this agenda became considered an ‘ethical overreach’(Alba, 2020; 605), the museum refocused more specifically on the diary’s particular history and that of the site itself. The museum stories it tells today stay as close as possible to the diary and its testimonial nature, as a document of wartime witness. Returning its focus to the intricacies of its personal stories, the Anne Frank House in extension
thereof tells the stories of countless others. Within the museum, one of the final exhibition rooms is dedicated to the Franks’ family life in Amsterdam prior to going in hiding, which tells the stories of the neighbourhood they lived in before the war. The visitor can virtually tour the former family home of the Franks’ on the Merwedeplein via a touchscreen, as well as being introduced to the wider picture of Jews in Amsterdam, including various exhibits concerning the fate of several Merwedeplein neighbours during and after the war.
A video of different people talking of Anne’s influence is projected on a wall to the far end of this space, further showcasing how Anne’s story connects to that of many others. As such, the museum attempts to use Anne’s story to make visible the wider Jewish (and non-Jewish) community of Amsterdam, hereby
contextualising the diary and making real and tangible her life and legacy.
The Anne Frank House: A museum of loss
The Anne Frank House now functions as a museum of loss, conveyed by absence as explicitly intended by Anne’s father Otto Frank. After the inhabitants of the annex were discovered and taken away by the SS, most of their belongings were confiscated, leaving the rooms stripped of almost all their contents. Of the
inhabitants Otto Frank was the only one to survive the Holocaust, and the emptiness of the spaces came to symbolise for him the loss of his fellow sufferers who had not returned from the camps. Because of this, he insisted that the annex should be kept empty, rather than reconstructed with new objects (van der Laarse, 2018; 43). Rather than posing a problem for the museum stories it tells, the way the Anne Frank House stages emptiness seems to amplify the affective power of its spaces and hereby boost its popularity. Otto Frank’s decision to intentionally preserve the emptiness of the spaces has allowed the Anne Frank Museum to function as what Patrizia Violi calls a ‘trauma site museum’, not only for its indexical relation with the historical site that allows visitors to experience the place of Anne’s hiding, but also for an emotional experience of authenticity (van der Laarse, 2018; 43-44).
In her study of the Anne Frank House, Jan Penrose describes how the museum cultivates ‘experiential authenticity’; sparking within visitors the belief and sensations of experiencing something genuine or real (Penrose, 2020; 1264). The museum employs several different types of authenticity, of which perhaps the most predominant type is object authenticity. The few original objects and features preserved within the museum are all the more moving due to their scarcity, and physical traces such as the measuring marks on the wall documenting Anne and Margot’s height whilst in hiding, or Otto’s small map of Normandy with pins still marking the allies’ advances, hold impressive affective power (see fig. 1 & 2). With these elements in place, the walls of the annex still make palpable the two years of life in hiding that occurred within its spaces, and makes tangible the slow passage of time as experienced by its inhabitants.These traces testify to Anne’s presence in the space and the reality of what happened there. They activate the visitor’s own
imagination and capacity for empathy, in connection to these very human behaviours of decorating, mapping, measuring and marking. Thus, the Anne Frank House necessitates visitors to actively imagine what life must have been like in the annex during the war (Penrose, 2020; 1256). The whole experience of the museum is geared towards this emotional impact, with additional experiential elements such as the audio tour working to accentuate the emptiness of the space. The audio stops once the visitor enters the original annex itself, as if to communicate that the emotional charge of the space itself somehow begs for silence. The museum herein
intentionally lets the visitor move through the spaces in silence to take in the empty rooms, and fully engage themselves in the process of imagining what it must have been like to be in hiding there. Photographs of reconstructions from 1999 on plaques aid in this exercise, making the absence of objects and people that once filled its rooms all the more present (see fig. 3). The empty setting and the silence within which it is set, becomes the foreground of the visitor experience.
At the centre of the experience offered by the Anne Frank House lies the single most important authentic object displayed: Anne Frank’s original diary. Aside from offering visitors a direct connection and closeness between Anne and themselves due to its object authenticity, the diary is also instrumental in guiding visitors through the building and its stories (Penrose, 2020; 1259). Within the museum, selected quotations from Anne’s diary adorn the walls of each space leading up to the annex, and within the original rooms of the annex the visitor finds more quotations, this time on plaques explaining the former uses of each room (see fig. 4). These quotations either relate wartime experiences of the annex’s inhabitants and their helpers that are relevant to the room in question, or to objects displayed there. By providing most of the explanation required to make sense of the spaces and objects, Anne’s writing guides the visitor throughout their museum visit. As both authentic object containing personal traces that refer to Anne as well as document containing words that make up the story of Anne’s hiding, the diary gives the museum stories told at the Anne Frank House purpose and emotional weight. The spaces and the narrative from the diary speak to each other, affirm each other, and fill each other out. As the visitor makes her way through the museum, an interplay between genuine object and genuine text is at work, which together inspires empathy and vicarious experience (Escalas & Stern, 2003; 1260). The personal nature of the diary hereby tempers the visit with subjectivities of both author and ‘reader/visitor’ (Penrose, 2020; 1259), as the visitor imagines Anne when reading her words, imbuing them with meaning from their own personal experience, and their own knowledge of the events that lie outside them.
Remediating Anne Frank: Appealing to a new generation
Designed to compliment this in-person visitor experience and the institution’s new approach to its museum stories, the ‘Anne Frank video diary’ series remediates Anne’s story as if it were a home-video taken from Anne’s perspective. In 15 episodes of 5 to 10 minutes, Anne, portrayed by Dutch actress Luna Cruz Perez, expresses her thoughts and emotions to the camera rather than to a diary. It was recorded in Dutch, with subtitles in nine languages, and all other aspects of the story attempt historical accuracy. The concept was developed by the Dutch production company Every Media, who suggested the idea to the museum about two years ago. The target audience they had in mind for the series are children and teenagers from 11 or 12 to about 17, around Anne’s age when she was in hiding. As the museum’s director Ronald Leopold explains, the decision to produce a series of this nature was born out of the need to present the story as young people would understand it, and the realisation that it was necessary to think of new ways to tell this history “against the backdrop of an exploding media landscape.” (Siegal, 2020) Available on YouTube in over 60 countries, the Anne Frank video diary has garnered thousands of views so far, ranging from 144K to a million views per video.
The film series thus remediates Anne’s story in such a way that it can be taken on by younger generations, and in particular, young people who are less likely to read Anne’s diary in its published form. In an interview with Op1, Luna Cruz Perez admitted that she had not read the published diary until after she was cast as the lead in the series. When she first tried to read the diary at age eleven she found it too hard, because “Anne uses quite big and old words”, and she herself does not read much (Op1, 2020). As director Hanna Niekerk elaborates in the same interview, “young people increasingly read less, [and because of this] Anne’s diary is a bridge too far”. As children now grow up interacting with increasingly advanced and immediate media technologies, they have come to rely on the internet as a source of both entertainment and information. As of January 2021, YouTube is the world’s second-most visited website after Google, and the world’s second- most used social platform after Facebook (Hootsuite). According to statistics from 2020, 77% of Gen Z users (persons born between 1997 and 2012) now visit YouTube daily (GlobalWebIndex). Perhaps the most popular and defining video genre to be found on YouTube is the ‘videoblog’ or ‘vlog’ genre, the
characteristics of which are essential for understanding the particular appeal of YouTube, as well as being fundamental to contemporary media entertainment engagement across social media platforms. (Burgess, 2018; 58) The video diary series responds and builds on to many prior mediated forms of the diary, but is also current media and the video genres they have given rise to. In this way, the Anne Frank video diary remediates Anne’s diary itself, but also vlog culture as a medium into which to translate it.
PART 2: Analysis of the Anne Frank video diary
Remediating vlog culture
By emulating the vlog culture young people today are very much engaged in, the video diary is able to present Anne as a regular teenager, relating her experiences as others in her age group would today. This allows for a unique affective mode of address whereby Anne relates her experiences throughout all 15 episodes, sharing her reflections with an imagined audience. In the second episode, Anne introduces her hiding place, explaining to her audience its rooms, rituals, inhabitants and helpers. She films Fritz Pfeffer as he performs silly exercises in the room they share, and makes a face to the camera while his snoring keeps her up at night; as if to share a look of disapproval with the camera (see fig. 5 & 6). Later on she films multiple shots of Peter, and a moody Peter ignores her greeting him. This is followed by Anne talking at length to the camera, and sharing her concerns over his lack of interest in her. In true teenage melodramatic fashion, she laments: “Who will I talk to if he doesn’t like me?”. In episode 5, she relates the story of her kiss with Peter. However, as she goes into great detail about how she feels to be “discovering love”, Pfeffer enters the room. Anne snaps at him that she is not done yet, and as he leaves, she mutters: “so annoying”. These sequences demonstrate Anne’s attitudes and concerns as those of a typical teenager, with her insecurities, discoveries and developments continuing to occupy her mind despite the heavy situation she finds herself in.
In this way, the series prioritises the character of Anne’s perspective, and also resonates with contemporary forms of childhood self-representation. As such, the video diary works to reconcile children’s historical status as writers and creators with children’s contemporary digital engagements (Burke & Simpson, 2020;
265), making it possible for Anne’s story to strike a chord with a new generation.
In the Anne Frank video diary, hypermediacy serves to create immediacy, as the way in which it reminds the viewer of the medium allows for a very particular ‘window on the past’ to emerge. The premise of the series,
‘What if Anne Frank had a video camera instead of a diary?’, forefronts the anachronistic nature of its remediation, the curiosity and novelty of which was used to market the text and drum up popularity.
However, once the audience has gotten used to this concept and watches the episodes, they forget the presence of the medium and accept the illusion of unmediated memory. We are aware of the new medium as a medium, but by virtue of precisely this, the video diary is able to reform the written diary in such a way that gives its audience ‘a more immediate or authentic experience’ (Bolter & Grusin, 1999; 17).
Furthermore, by bringing Anne’s voice as it exists within the original diary to bear on a new medium, the Anne Frank video diary endows its episodes representing past events with an aura of authenticity (Erll, 2011;
141). By focusing on Anne’s perspective in this way, its media representations seem endemically linked to the historical events they depict (Erll, 2011; 141). The filmmakers selected certain passages from Anne’s diary to reenact, picking out particular themes and events they felt were especially relevant in giving the audience an insight into Anne’s experiences in hiding. In remediating Anne’s written passages, the Anne Frank video diary generates experiential authenticity for the viewer through its endemic link to the original text, but also through many creative liberties. The production team gave lead actress Luna Cruz Perez a wide scope to improvise beyond the script developed by Natascha van Weezel and Wies Fest, to make it feel as realistic as possible (Siegal, 2020). This approach has resulted in moving monologues such as episode 14, during which Anne reflects on how much she has changed over the past two years in hiding, and the constant quarrels and accusations that she has been dealing with throughout. Relating Anne’s feelings in her own words, Luna embodies Anne as she contends with parts of herself that she sees as shallow and difficult. As Jan Penrose puts it, the use of ‘inauthentic’ images can give rise to ‘authentic imagining’ (Penrose, 2020;
1262). In this way, the video diary works to restore the authorial voice of Anne, filling in ‘the voice of abstraction’ as Stewart calls it, in such a way so as to speak directly to the experience of young people today.
As Leshu Torchin argues in Anne Frank’s Moving Images, part of testimony’s strength relies on the power of a first-person narration of suffering. She argues that dramatic adaptations of Anne’s diary face the challenge posed by the “veracity gap” to maintain the [testimonial] authority of Anne’s voice as a witness to history, in a genre that involves multiple voices (Torchin, 2012; 112). Whereas more traditional dramatic adaptations of Anne’s diary maintain the text’s communicative intention but involve multiple voices, here Anne speaks directly to her audience. With the Video Diary, the Anne Frank House returns to the diary itself and Anne’s own voice, reclaiming her own position as a child writer and addressing a new generation of her
contemporary ‘peers’ directly —and communicated through a medium of their everyday.
Editing, music, aesthetics
Affect is induced not only through the clever selection and evocative reenactment of diary passages, but also through the choices of the filmmakers in terms of aesthetics and assemblage. Flashbacks are often used to
provide emotional contrasts, and to produce feelings of nostalgia. In order to review how the series produces affect through these means, I will focus on a few episodes in particular; episode 1, 7, 9 and 15. Episode 1 sets out the premise of the story, and introduces the audience to the Frank family as they prepare to go into hiding. It opens with a shot of Anne’s David star, fastened to her dress. She has just received the camera, and is figuring out how to film with it. The music of this episode starts off with a soft guitar and piano piece, which evokes a sense of sweetness and innocence. Anne films her family as they celebrate her 13th birthday, and films as she plays outside with her friends (see fig. 7-8). However, as Anne encounters anti-semitic signs a more ominous tune sets in, which continues with a soft, sad humming vocal. Holding the camera as she sits to the back of her sister’s bike she films soldiers in the street, as well as filming herself in front of “Joden niet gewenscht” (‘Jews not welcome’) signs (see fig. 9-10). These shots of rising anti-Jewish sentiments are edited in between shots of Anne speaking directly to the camera, explaining that her family is going into hiding as Jews are being sent away to “work camps” in Germany.
By episode 7, Anne and her family have been in hiding for quite some time. The atmosphere of the annex is now one of mounting frustration and desperation as its inhabitants continue to wait for the invasion of the allied forces. Flashback shots show Anne enjoying being outside with friends, a big contrast to the ‘current’
situation within the annex of adults arguing, depression and conflict. However, the flashback shots also reveal how anti-Jewish sentiment were ever present and increasing, as they again show anti-semitic signs and characters wearing yellow stars. These images interject Anne’s monologue about the persecution of Jews in the Netherlands, and demonstrate the discrimination she is talking about. For example, a nostalgic sequence of Anne on a walk with a friend, smiling and laughing together, go on to reveal a sign on the gate they are approaching, which reads “Voor Joden verboden” (‘Forbidden for Jews’) (see fig. 11-12). As she confesses to the camera how she wishes to stay in the Netherlands after the war, and to be able to be both Dutch and Jewish, the images match her longing to be at home in the Netherlands once again. Exemplifying this, the image of an exhausted Anne confessing her devastation to the camera is followed by a shot that shows her at the back of her sister’s bike, cycling through her beloved Amsterdam with a look of contentment on her face (see fig. 13-14). Later in episode 9 we see the inhabitants of the annex celebrating D-Day, waiting and hoping for liberation. As Anne is talking about things she’s excited for post-war, happy flashbacks of carefree childhood moments are edited in between shots of her speaking to the camera. All of these montages of bittersweet memories are cleverly interlaced with Anne’s monologues, revealing her desires, frustrations, and deep longing for freedom and acceptance. Furthermore, from the many scenes of Anne speaking to the camera with a tear stained face or look of pure exhaustion, to images of Anne sitting on the floor of her room, the sense of entrapment and distress are made all the more palpable (see fig. 15, 16). The nostalgic feel produced by the editing, together with the melancholic music and these striking images, carries forward the sense of how drastically Anne’s world shrank upon entering the annex, transforming her into a teenager longing to return to the carefree innocence of childhood.
Not only does it create its own affect through its editing, the Anne Frank video diary further amplifies the affect of the traces at the museum itself, and elevates the affective emptiness to be discovered there. As Andreas Huyssen has noted, in contemporary memory culture, it is digitalisation that endows the analog with an auratic effect (Pinchevski, 2019; 109), and so too within the series. In episode 15, the final episode of the