New project asks: What if Anne Frank was still alive?

Israeli actress Chen Drachman, who lives and works in New York, has written ‘Ruth’s,’ a script for a short film exploring an alternate history.

By
December 24, 2017 21:29
3 minute read.
Israeli actress Chen Drachman (left) stages a reading of her script ‘Ruth’s’ at the JCC in Manhattan

Israeli actress Chen Drachman (left) stages a reading of her script ‘Ruth’s’ at the JCC in Manhattan with actress Tovah Feldshuh. (photo credit: OREN KORENBLUM)

 
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What if Anne Frank had made it out of the Holocaust alive? What if, after the horrors she endured in the concentration camps, she chose to live a quiet existence and never discuss her experiences? It’s a jarring thought, one that would rewrite history books and change the way we look at one of the most iconic faces of the Holocaust.

Of course it isn’t true, but it was the inspiration for a short film, Ruth’s, that Israeli actress Chen Drachman is trying desperately to get made. She has the script ready, her dream lead actress interested and several film festivals intrigued. But, like a whole lot of struggling filmmakers, she’s just waiting on the cash.

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Drachman, a Holon native who now lives in New York, was inspired to write the script a couple of years ago, when she was skimming the news.

“The Anne Frank House released an official study... about how her date of death wasn’t originally when it was said to be,” said Drachman during a visit to Israel to see family last week. “There was one news outlet that wrote it in a certain way, made a grammatical error, that implied that her fate was unknown.”

That, Drachman said, got her thinking about the unthinkable possibility that Frank’s story didn’t end the way we all know it did.

“It made me think huh, what if she was alive today, why wouldn’t she tell us?” says Drachman. “Trying to answer these questions led to writing that script that summer a few months after they released that study.”

Drachman is aware that there are those who will be wary or angry at even contemplating such revisionist history, and had heard some such criticism. But, she says, even the most critical “almost always changed their mind once they read it and realized what it is.”

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And she is very careful in the script not to downplay any of the suffering involved.

“She mentioned in the script that she’s been through the camps,” says Drachman. “She says that ‘this story might not have been my complete story, but it was the story of millions of people... more than a what if scenario it’s like an ‘I wish’ scenario.”

It’s not like Hollywood hasn’t seen a Holocaust revisionist tale before. For instance, 2009’s Inglorious Bastards – which imagines Jewish-American soldiers carrying out a plot to kill Adolf Hitler. The film, directed by Quentin Tarantino, grossed more than $320 million worldwide.

When Drachman first wrote her script, she reached out to the Anne Frank House about it, and didn’t hear any negative feedback. Instead, she said, a representative told her it was “very daring and interesting and compelling.”

She recently staged a reading of the script at the JCC in Manhattan, with none other than Broadway legend Tovah Feldshuh in the starring role. Feldshuh, in addition to her extensive theater career, has been seen in Law and Order, The Walking Dead and is currently starring in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Drachman dreamed of Feldshuh in the lead role in Ruth’s, and when she got the script in front of the veteran actress, she readily agreed.

The reading in New York last month was meant to serve as a fund-raiser toward getting the film made, though Drachman admits it didn’t quite have the impact she needed. But she’s learning that patience is a virtue, and submitting the script to small film festivals around the world, hoping to gain more exposure. The script was just accepted at the Near Nazareth Film Festival, and has also been at the Oaxaca Film Festival, the Miami Indie Artist Film Festival, the 2016 NYC Independent Film Festival and many more.

But Chen, who considers herself primarily an actress, isn’t just sitting around and waiting. She’s busy with auditions, gigs, writing and production work. Her biggest role to date will be premiering in the new year, when she returns with a small part in the upcoming third season of Hulu’s The Path with Aaron Paul.

But whatever other projects she is working on, Ruth’s holds a special place in Drachman’s heart, and she isn’t giving up anytime soon. The actress and screenwriter said it’s her own family history that has made her so interested in telling this story and seeing the film made.

“I’m the third generation to Holocaust survivors,” she said. “The last thing I want to do was disrespect anyone or anything... this came to me because I’m so invested in it, but I’m not going to judge any reaction to it.”

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