In this month's round-up: A miniseries takes a new angle on the Anne Frank saga; The Conjuring universe expands on film and into TV; Terrence Malick's long-awaited film on Christ makes fans wait even longer.
The Woman Who Hid Anne Frank
On May 1, Nat Geo Channel premieres A Small Light, a limited series, produced by ABC and Keshet Studios. It focuses on the real-life story of Miep Gies, who played a critical role in hiding Jewish girl Anne Frank and her family during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam.
British actress Bel Powley plays the young, opinionated secretary Gies, who works for Anne's father, Otto Frank (Liev Schrieber).
Gies was born into a working-class Catholic family in Austria, although there is no evidence she was particularly devout. Gies was sent to live with a Christian Dutch family as a child, because poor conditions after World War I left her malnourished and unhealthy.
Gies spoke both German and Dutch, which came in handy, and proved to be both brave and resourceful. For two years, she and her husband, Jan (played by Joe Cole), a member of the Dutch resistance, hid the Franks and two other families in a secret building annex.
Until her death in 2010 at age 100, Gies insisted she was no hero. But, as shown in A Small Light, Gies used her guts and brains to procure food and other necessities for the families, under the noses of Nazi occupiers.
Gies is also the reason that we have The Diary of Anne Frank. Gies preserved it and later passed it to Otto Frank, who survived the war.
A Small Light is a bit slow, but well-produced, tense and dramatic, suitable for mature middle-schoolers and up. There is some drinking and mild language, and one of Gies' adopted brothers is portrayed as gay.
It should provide much fodder for discussion, even for those who think they know the Anne Frank story.
Two episodes premiere on May 1, at 9 p.m. ET, on National Geographic Channel. Those two episodes will also be simulcast on Lifetime and Nat Geo WILD.
The premiere episodes then get an airing on Freeform on Saturday, May 6, at 8 p.m. ET.
Two new episodes then debut on the following Mondays, and are available to stream the next day on Disney+ and Hulu.
More From The Conjuring Universe
Based on the exploits of Catholic paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), The Conjuring film franchise began in 2013 with The Conjuring. The most recent installment, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, came out in 2021.
The seven total films also spin-offs not featuring the Warrens, including 2018's The Nun, a wildly improbable film which nevertheless had many strong Catholic elements.
Its sequel, The Nun 2, is due to come out this September. Vera Farmiga's sister, Tessa Farmiga, reprises her role as Sister Irene, who must once again face the demonic force called Valak.
The next film in the franchise featuring the Warrens just got a name: The Conjuring: Last Rites. There's no word yet on the plot.
A Conjuring TV series is also being developed for Max, the rebranded version of the HBO Max streaming platform. There are no plot or cast details, but the films' producer, Peter Safran, will be executive producer.
Franchise director/producer James Wan in also in talks to serve as executive producer.
Obviously, as horror films, The Conjuring movies aren't suitable for family viewing, but as a writer for The Torch, the Catholic newspaper of Boston College, points out:
The most important point that the movies drive home is that God is real and that the devil is real. The last image on screen of the first Conjuring movie reads:
“Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow. —Ed Warren”
Not only are there both forces of good and evil in the world, but there are real stakes as to what we as people choose to believe, and how we live our lives. Ed and Lorraine are two examples of those who choose to follow God and believe in Him, and use their skills to help cast out demons and literally save souls.
Waiting for Malick
Although it began filming in 2019, WorldofReel.com reports that The Way of the Wind, from acclaimed filmmaker Terrence Malick (A Hidden Life, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life), is still in post-production and won't be ready for this fall's film festivals.
Also at WorldofReel.com:
“The Way of the Wind” is supposed to convey passages “in the life of Christ” through the representation of evangelical parables. Jesus Christ's descent into the world of the dead, also known as his “descent into hades,” is rumored to be one of the parables that will be included in the film.
The cast, for now, includes the likes of Matthias Schoenaerts (as Saint Peter), Géza Röhrig (as Jesus), Ben Kingsley, Joseph Fiennes, and Mark Rylance (as Satan).
Says an article at Word on Fire of Malick's work:
More than any of the other films I showed in class, even the explicitly Christian films with Jesus, Malick’s films were by far the most influential in helping my students see the beauty of the faith and become convinced of its truth.
Image: The butterfly necklace that was given to Miep folds into a Star of David, as seen in A SMALL LIGHT. (Credit: National Geographic for Disney/Dusan Martincek)
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.