Thursday, June 21, 2012

Anne Frank Speaks

It was just a month ago that my wife and I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, reading the words from Anne Frank’s diary in the exact location where they were written during the Holocaust years. I would never have imagined at the time that somewhere halfway across the world, someone was giving Anne Frank a voice.

What connection is there between a Caribbean-based magician/comedian and Anne Frank? How did it come about that a statue of Anne Frank was unveiled in a park on the island of Aruba? And who made a short documentary about Anne Frank that is up for awards in the Aruba International Film Festival (AIFF), with its world premiere this weekend?

Meet Adam Steinfeld, the ultimate modern magician and the man who is magically bringing Anne Frank’s words to life.

Adam Steinfeld, the entertainer behind the MagicLive! show that has been running for over five years at a casino resort theater on the tropical resort island of Aruba, is the producer of a short experimental film, “Anne Speaks”. The film will have its world premiere on Saturday and Sunday as part of the AIFF Caribbean Spotlight Series, which rewards the work of talented local and Caribbean filmmakers.

Ahead of the film’s debut, I had a chance to interview Adam Steinfeld.

Steinfeld’s connection to Anne Frank

ES: You’re a magician, illusionist, comedian and producer. What is your connection to Anne Frank?

AS: Actually, it was the most unplanned short film I ever created. On the day of shooting, (November 17, 2011), I was across the street, in the 216-year-old Fort Zoutman Willem III Clock Tower, asking the historical society permission to shoot inside the steampunk, Jules Verne-like clock mechanism, for one of my future time- tripper stories. I noticed the sunlight reflecting well on the [Anne Frank] statue, giving it a glowing surreal look. I walked across the street, (I take my Nikon with me where ever I go), and just starting shooting.

ES: “Anne Speaks” is a short documentary. What is the film about?

AS: it's about trying to understand Anne Frank from Anne Frank's point-of-view, it mixes quotes from Anne Frank, read by local Dutch girl, (Annabel van Westerop), speaking English with a Dutch accent, and a dozen kids in Aruba, who encircle the statue, their reaction, inter-cut with photos of kids from the Holocaust, with horror soundtracks. A small bronze statue stands in the middle of a park, reflecting on the horrors and memories that brought her there.

ES: The film focuses on the Anne Frank sculpture. How long has that been on the island of Aruba?

AS: The statue is there already a year; the unveiling ceremony was last year June 12, on Anne Frank's birthday. It was created by Netherlands Dutch bronze artist Joep Coppens, funded by the RESPECT LIFE foundation in Aruba. It stands in downtown, Aruba, in Wilhelmina Park. You can actually see it as you drive by.

ES: Is this the first time you have a film as one of the entries at the Aruba Film Festival?

AS: Yes, my first film in any festival. Very exciting, I’m looking forward to meeting top directors, writers, and filmmakers. The film festival is set to open this Saturday. It's Aruba’s 3rd film festival.

What’s next for Adam Steinfeld?

ES: Producing a serious documentary is a big step for a comedian/magician. What do you have planned for your next trick?

AS: I studied to be a filmmaker at the University of Miami many years ago. I have always been pretty good at comedy, magic & standup. I put myself through college performing magic, traveled around the USA & world many times presenting my show. I have a following in Aruba, and among the New York, Boston, Chicago, and Venezuelan tourists that visit the island. Tourists confuse me with Seinfeld, ask if I'm related. Lately, people tend to know the name "Steinfeld" via young Oscar-nominated actress Haley Steinfeld. I’m not related to her either, but she is talented.

As for other projects, I’m looking one day to turn my novel/filmscript "The Houdini Conspiracy (Houdini Lives!)” into a feature film. It's historical fiction, set in Miami Beach in 1966, forty years after Houdini's death. In it, the famous escape artist is hiding out as a Rabbi, escaping from the psychics that tried to kill him, knows Jackie Gleason and Frank Sinatra, and is about to make a major comeback.

One of my first documentary shorts was called “Hold the Schmaltz! (Rascal House the Final Hours)”, focusing on the final day of a popular Jewish deli, Rascal House, which was in Miami Beach for 54 years. It’s not easy living in Aruba: You can't get a decent pastrami sandwich.

Lately, I'm developing a series of shorts that are part-real, part-fiction, that mix magic behind-the-scenes from my show with my over-the-top characters, set in a mythical world. I've shot & edited a few test episodes already. Response is excellent and I’m hoping to launch the project late summer.

Good luck to Adam Steinfeld and the film “Anne Speaks” at the Aruba International Film Festival!

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