“A Small Light” Premieres at SXSW with a Timeless, Essential Exploration of Anne Frank’s Story
“A Small Light” creators Tony Phelan and Joan Rater address the audience at SXSW on March 17, 2023 at Stateside at the Paramount Theater in Austin. Credit: Wendy Goodman
By Wendy Goodman
“A Small Light” shines a poignant spotlight on Miep Gies, a pivotal figure in Anne Frank’s story, through a compelling coming-of-age narrative during World War II and Nazi occupation in Amsterdam. The eight-part limited TV series, which premiered its first two episodes at SXSW on March 17, 2023 at Stateside at the Paramount Theater in Austin, features Bel Powley as Miep Gies and Liev Schreiber as Otto Frank.
The inspiring true story told through Miep’s perspective provides a unique dimension, offering viewers a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those who risked their lives to protect Anne and her family. Viewers gain insight into Miep, the moral dilemmas she confronts, the sacrifices she makes, and the immense bravery required to give support and protection to those in hiding.
“When we first heard the remarkable story of Miep Gies we were gripped and deeply moved. We were also convinced that this limited series about an everyday superhero – one that most people around the world have never heard of – needed an unprecedented rollout,” said Carolyn Bernstein, EVP, Scripted and Documentary Films, National Geographic.
“What’s so touching about the story is that [Miep’s] an ordinary person who’s in an extra-ordinary circumstance who ends up doing extra-ordinary things. And, that’s what makes her so relatable,” Powley told The Jewish Outlook.
Drawing from her own Jewish background, Powley was able to infuse her performance with a genuine sense of empathy and understanding.
“Before I even read the [series] pilot, I knew this was something that I would want to be a part of because of my own personal connections to it. Playing Miep has been a complete honor. She’s an inspiration,” said Powley.
“A Small Light” carries a vital message that continues to shed light on the Holocaust and the timeless importance of Anne Frank’s story.
“We’re the last generation to have Holocaust survivors, which is so important. Having the series now and letting it build over time is going to be prominent for the younger generations,” said Billie Boullet who plays Anne Frank in the series.
Through modern, multi-dimensional storytelling, “A Small Light” creators Tony Phelan and Joan Rater (ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Council of Dads) engage today’s audience.
“The goal of this [series] is to make it as immediate and accessible as we can, and to not tell the story with, what we think of as, traditional reverence…Our goal was to put you right in it,” said Phelan.
In an era when acts of antisemitism, prejudice and hate persist, “A Small Light” provides a powerful platform for Holocaust education and awareness.
“I think our job is to keep the story in the conversation that allows it to not become historical. We have to continue the story, to tell the tale, so that we do not repeat it,” said Phelan.
The name of the series derives from a quote from Miep when she later explained that she does not consider herself a hero, “But even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can, within their own small ways, turn on a small light in a dark room.”
“A Small Light” is produced by ABC Signature in partnership with Keshet Studios for National Geographic. Executive producers and writers Rater and Phelan serve as showrunners, and Directors Guild of America award-winner and Emmy®-nominated executive producer Susanna Fogel (The Flight Attendant and Cat Person) directs multiple episodes, including the pilot. Executive producers are Peter Traugott and Lisa Roos for Keshet Studios, Alon Shtruzman for Keshet International and Avi Nir for Keshet Media Group.
Additional cast includes Amira Casar, who plays Edith Frank, mother to Margot and Anne; Billie Boullet, who portrays Anne Frank; Ashley Brooke, who plays Anne’s older sister, Margot Frank; Andy Nyman as Hermann van Pels, Caroline Catz as Auguste van Pels, Rudi Goodman as Peter van Pels and Noah Taylor as Dr. Fritz Pfeffer, who all hid in the annex with the Frank family; Eleanor Tomlinson as Tess, Miep’s best friend; Sally Messham as Bep Voskuijl, Ian McElhinney as Johannes Kleiman and Nicholas Burnsas Victor Kugler, Miep’s coworkers; and Liza Sadovy as Mrs. Stoppelman, Laurie Kynaston as Casmir and Sebastian Armesto as Max Stoppelman.
Attendees view film during Austin Jewish Film Festival at the Dell JCC. Credit: Ken Nordhauser By Cynthia Winer The annual Austin Jewish Film Festival opened on Thursday, November 2, at the Dell Jewish Community Center, bringing its audience an outstanding compilation...
Hate in the Lone Star State: Extremism & Antisemitism in Texas” A Report by the ADL Center on Extremism, released September 2023. Courtesy: ADL By Wendy Goodman In September 2023, ADL Center on Extremism published a report on extremist and antisemitic activity in...
By Jackie Nirenberg, Regional Director, ADL Austin It is hard to believe it has been over a month since Hamas murdered over 1,400 Israeli civilians in cold blood, the largest number of Jewish people killed since the Holocaust, and took more than 240 hostages,...