Canneseries Review: A Small Light, the story of Anne Frank's keeper
This new Disney+ series tells the story of Miep Gies, the woman who hid the Frank family and several other jews in the annex of her apartment.
Most everyone is familiar with the name Anne Frank (and if you aren’t, you should be). But most of us know very little about Miep Gies, the young woman who hid Anne along with her family and others from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. The series (premiering on Disney+ later this year) is about Miep and the life-risking decision to hide the Franks (and, as we’ll learn, many others) from the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands. In the two episodes (deftly directed by “Booksmart” co-writer Susanna Vogel) screened at its Canneseries premiere, Powley (“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”) plays Miep, an immediately likable and relatable modern young woman who likes to enjoy life, but who may not be super-responsible. Otto Frank is played by the terrific Liev Schreiber, and the episodes introduce the rest of the Frank family along with the others Miep hides in the Opekta attic, including Anne (played by newcomer Billie Boullet) and Dr Pfeffer (Noah Taylor).
Earlier this year, during a Q&A following a SXSW screening, the creators of the show were asked about their inspiration. Joan Rater explained that while she and her husband, Tony Phelan, were touring the Anne Frank House with their children, they realized that their son was the same age as Miep when she took in the Franks. She thought about her son, who is smart but also maybe doesn’t have a lot of common sense, and wondered if maybe Miep was the same. The couple decided it was time to tell her story.
We all know the tragic end of the story, of course. What we don’t know are the lengths that Miep, her co-workers, her husband, Jan Gies (Jole Cole), and the resistance went to, to keep the Franks and the others hidden away from the Nazis. Viewers won’t see the final result - the creators said they didn’t want “to play the end”, because everyone knows what happens to the Franks in the end, but they rather tell the story about the events leading up to the tragedy.
Despite the heavy subject, the tone of the show is perfectly balanced, as there are definitely moments of humour. The creators describe what happened in the annex as “frozen in history” and they wanted to depict that everyone involved wasn’t living a reverent life–they were just living life, period.