Reviews September 2022
Hiding from deportation
Where Is Anne Frank
Directed by Ari Folman
Certificate PG, 99 minutes
Released 12 August
Amsterdam, about a year from now. Inside the Anne Frank House, Anne’s imaginary pen-friend Kitty (voiced by Ruby Stokes) materialises out of the ink from the pages of Anne’s diary. The perplexed Kitty wants to know what happened to Anne, and starts reading her diary to find out, taking it with her when she leaves the premises where she is invisible. Outside the house, she becomes visible.
Asking police ‘Where is Anne Frank?’ she is shown the bridge, hospital, school and theatre bearing Anne Frank’s name and is told, Anne Frank is all around you. The film consists partly of Kitty’s working her way though Anne’s diary, experiencing Anne’s life as described in it and having conversations with Anne (voiced by Emily Carey); and partly of Kitty’s adventures in an Amsterdam where the police are attempting to round up immigrants for deportation.
Equal weight is given to both halves of the story. On the one hand, we meet Anne’s mother, father and older sister along with the others sharing their hiding place – a couple named the Van Daans, their son Peter (voiced by Sebastian Croft) and the dentist Albert Dussel. On the other, she falls in with a young pickpocket named Peter (voiced by Ralph Prosser) and his friends, illegal immigrants holed up in a squat. It is only a matter of time before the police round them up.
Kitty also learns that if she becomes separated from the diary by more than about 25 feet, she starts to dissolve into thin air. Meanwhile, a citywide hunt is underway for the girl who stole Anne Frank’s diary.
This latest, extraordinary feature from the director of hard-hitting, grown-up animated dramas Waltz With Bashir (2008) and The Congress (2013) once again deploys the animation medium in the service of stories light years away from the unchallenging children’s and family fare so often associated with it. It skilfully and effectively takes you inside not only Anne Frank’s devastating, historical story but also what’s happening with present day refugees in parts of Europe (and although this is set in Amsterdam, Europe includes the UK). An absolute must-see – and child-friendly too.
Jeremy Clarke is a film critic. His website is jeremycprocessing.com
John Bell collected
The Long and the Short of it: Reflections on reality in different measures
John L Bell
The Long and the Short of it is a collection of pieces by John Bell, which mostly started life either as two minute and forty second ‘Thoughts for the Day’ on BBC Radio 4, or as longer seminar talks delivered in recent years at the Greenbelt festival. He covers a diverse range of topics, from the dire consequences for women (and, indeed, everyone) when a culture is based upon rampant heterosexism, to the laptop/mobile phone driven busyness of an early Glasgow to London train and the resultant loss of time to ‘dream and silently muse’. His voice is never strident or overbearing, yet always commands attention to what is important enough not to be missed – this is as true when he opens up the taboo subject of what drives paedophilia, or when he grows potatoes in his front yard during covid lockdown and shares the crop with his Chinese neighbours.
In spoken words or in print John Bell is a consummate communicator whose output never has the feel of something scraped together to meet a need or deadline; rather, he presents to reader or listener the ripe fruit of prolonged consideration, careful research and a lifelong commitment to both challenging and encouraging those who encounter his words…
Ian Fosten is Book Reviews Editor for Reform
Green theology critique
Decolonizing Ecotheology: Indigenous and subaltern challenges
Edited by S Lilly Mendoza & George Zechariah
A criticism of both climate science and ecotheology is that they are dominated by voices from the global north. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has responded by broadening its input: its sixth impact report, in 2022, for the first time acknowledged colonialism’s impact on climate change.
Ecotheology needs to listen to the voices of people already experiencing the consequences of climate change. While some ecotheologians have used insights from indigenous spiritualities, a greater range is represented in Decolonising Ecotheology.
The book starts with a weak introduction that misses the opportunity to present a rigorous case for a ‘decolonising’ approach. Fortunately, the subsequent 14 essays are more interesting. At the risk of over-simplification: a common understanding is that ‘colonial Christianity’ fractured colonised peoples’ deep connection with their land, necessitating recovery of a precolonial spirituality in order to redress contemporary ecological crises. Colonial Christianity is defined by the 15th century ‘doctrine of discovery’, which legitimised Christian (ie European) countries’ ownership of non-Christian lands. Postcolonial problems have been compounded by the ‘colonialism’ of neo-liberal capitalism…
Peter Skerratt is a member of St Andrew’s URC, Ealing
A Companion in Crisis: A modern paraphrase of John Donne’s Devotions
Darton, Longman & Todd
During the lockdowns of 2020 many people tried to make sense of the situation by turning to literature set against real or fictional pandemics, from authors as diverse as Daniel Defoe and Albert Camus. For the US Christian author, Philip Yancey, the text he was drawn to was Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions by the priest and Metaphysical poet John Donne. Written in 1623 at a time when the plague killed a third of the population of London, the poet lies in bed sick, facing the real possibility of death and undergoing bizarre treatments, including pigeons applied to his head to remove vapours. As this goes on he conducts what Yancey describes as ‘a no-holds-barred wrestling match with God Almighty’.
The contemporary resonances are clear. Perhaps following news of the virus has been the modern equivalent of hearing the passing-bell and knowing it tolls for us too, because any death diminishes us all…
Nick Jones is a United Reformed Church minister in Wirral, Merseyside
Young, Woke and Christian: Words from a missing generation
Edited by Victoria Turner
This collection of essays by young Christian leaders and theologians explores with honesty, depth and rich insight a wide range of pressing contemporary concerns. Topics covered include ableism, race, sexuality, climate, gender identity, as well as less often explored themes such as theological perspective and wisdom from homeless people, or one’s body as a listening and learning place rather than a source of embarrassment or negative misunderstanding.
While the contributors are all skilled at handling ideas, what really spoke to me was the quality of each writer’s willingness to reflect on their own experience, and then offer their understanding with clarity and passion. The book is refreshingly light on jargon and axe-grinding, but invites the reader to step into praxis territory where challenging experience engages with Gospel truth and the work of the Spirit today. Such engagement inevitably has to lead to action, and the contributors all provide signposts to where and how this action needs to happen. All are equally clear that action is not something to be discussed or deferred but needs to happen immediately…
Ian Fosten is Book Reviews Editor for Reform
This article was published in the September 2022 edition of Reform