ANNE B. REAL
SUBJECTS — U.S./1991 to Present; New York and World/WWII;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Breaking Out; Coming of Age; Alcohol & Drug Abuse; Ambition; Courage; Crime; Education; Families in Crisis; Surviving; Talent;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Responsibility; Coming of Age; Alcohol & Drug Abuse; Ambition; Courage; Crime; Education; Caring.
MPAA Rating — PG-13 for violence and drug content; Drama; 91 minutes; Color; 2003. Available from Amazon.com.
Cynthia Gimenez lives in New York City. Her father, a school teacher, has recently died. Her brother is acting strangely. Her older sister has a child out of wedlock. The family is on welfare and lives in public housing. Before her father died Cynthia made straight A’s. Now she’s a C student. What Cynthia dreams of is rapping. At home she practices in the bathroom in front of the mirror and spends hours in her room writing out verses. She reads and rereads a book her father gave to her before he died, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
SELECTED AWARDS & CAST
Selected Awards: 2003 Santa Monica Film Festival Best Dramatic Feature.
Featured Actors: Ja Nice Richardson as Cynthia, Carlos Leon as Juan, Jackie Quinones as Kitty, Sherri Saum as Janet, Geronimo Frias as Darius, Ephraim Benton as Jerome, Antonio Macia as Michael, Eric Smith as Deuce, and Lady May as Fendi.
Director: Lisa France.
BENEFITS OF THE MOVIE
TWM recommends this film for classes in English and Health. Anne B. Real can motivate children of all races and ethnicities to read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. It demonstrates that the timeless messages of the book can reach across the continents, across the decades, across cultures, and across racial lines to underscore our common humanity. For Health classes there are many lessons in the film that relate to drug addiction, codependence, breaking out, and finding one’s own voice.
MINIMAL. There is almost no sex and almost no violence in this movie. There is some profanity. No drug use is shown. (The reason for the PG-13 rating, “violence and drug content,” is simply incorrect. However, PG-13 is probably the best of the available ratings because the movie deals powerfully with issues of drug addiction and death.) The most upsetting scene in the movie occurs when a character we have grown to love is killed accidentally. We don’t see the injury, just the person on the ground and a spreading pool of blood. The scene is important to advance the plot.
The worst problem in the movie is that Cynthia, the heroine, helps a schoolmate cheat on an exam by passing him her completed answers and then redoing his answers as if they were hers. However, this is not shown as good behavior and Jerome (the schoolmate) is pursuing an unethical and dangerous life-style that eventually gets him killed. This can be handled by ignoring it and focusing on other issues. Or, it can be dealt with directly by saying, at a break after the cheating scene, that there is one thing about the movie you disagree with, and asking what it is. When the right answer is revealed, describe why. First, it’s dishonest. Second, in today’s world a path to a decent life requires at least some education, for these kids or for anyone else. By helping her friend on the test, Cynthia was helping him avoid a real education; something that he desperately needed.
Sit with your child and watch the movie. Describe the story of Anne Frank and read with your child some of the excerpts from her diary contained in Learning Guide to Four Films About Anne Frank.
Explain the concept of enabling a loved one’s addiction and point out that Juan constantly sought to get Cynthia to help him maintain his drug habit. The resolution of the movie occurs when Cynthia realizes that Juan is going to keep on killing and hurting people, and will eventually die himself unless he goes to jail. Note that most alcoholics or drug abusers have a relative or friend who makes it easier for them to continue their addiction. If both you and your child know someone who is an enabler for an addict or alcoholic, talk about that person and his or her enabling behaviors. For more on enabling see Handout on Alcohol and How it Affects Us.
Review the Quick Discussion Question and the other Social-Emotional Learning and Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions. Start a conversation or two on a topic that will interest your child. You will not be able to discuss all of these concepts. Just go over as many as you can.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is not just a nice idea for a screenplay. People all over the world take heart in Anne Frank’s refusal to let the conditions of her confinement crush her spirit. Nelson Mandela and his associates took heart from Anne’s diary during their decades-long imprisonment in South Africa. At the dedication of the Anne Frank Exhibition at the Museum Africa, Johannesburg, on August 15, 1994, Mandela said:
During the many years my comrades and I spent in prison, we derived inspiration from the courage and tenacity of those who challenge injustice even under the most difficult circumstances…. [S]ome of us read Anne Frank’s Diary on Robben Island and derived much encouragement from it.
Combined with news of the heroic struggles of the people, led by the ANC [African National Congress], as well as the support of the international community, the tales of heroes and heroines of Anne’s calibre kept our spirits high and reinforced our confidence in the invincibility of the cause of freedom and justice.
Vaclav Havel was the first president of Czechoslovakia after it was freed from Russian domination at the end of the Cold War. Havel, a onetime political prisoner himself, said,
The content of Anne Frank’s legacy is still very much alive and it can address us fully, especially at a time when the map of the world is changing and dark passions are awakening within people.
John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, said:
Of the multitude who throughout history have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, no voice is more compelling than that of Anne Frank.
See also Helpful Background Section to Learning Guide to Four Films About Anne Frank.
Anne Frank’s diary also speaks to children all over the world about the trials and tribulations of being a teenager trying to become an adult.
Alcoholics and drug abusers are continually trying to get their family members and friends to help them maintain their addiction and to avoid the consequences of being intoxicated. Examples of enabling behaviors are: a spouse or relative excuses, denies, or conceals evidence of the addiction and fixes any problems caused by the intoxicated behavior; a relative provides money to the addict to allow the addict to keep an apartment when the addict has used the rent money for drugs; a relative defends an addict to family members when the addict does something irresponsible, like spending the money needed to pay the light bill on his or her drug of choice; or a relative or friend helps an addict get a job after the addict has lost his or her job for being intoxicated at work. These behaviors would ordinarily be supportive and caring. However, to the extent that they permit an addict avoid the consequences of his or her addiction, they help the addict maintain the addiction. Most addicts have family members or friends who enable their addiction.
The agony of the enabler is that no one wants to see their relative or friend lose their home, become unemployed, go to jail, or suffer the other unpleasant consequences of addiction. Often enablers continue their behavior until it becomes clear that they must draw the line to protect themselves. In reality, this is the best thing for the addict/alcoholic who will usually not take meaningful steps to get rid of the addiction until other people stop aiding the addictive behaviors. When enablers stop enabling the addiction, the alcoholic or addict will have to find another enabler or accept a heavy penalty for their actions. Hopefully, they will see that the addicted lifestyle holds no future and they will seek help in counseling or Alcoholics Anonymous.
In this movie, Juan repeatedly tries to get Cynthia to enable his addiction. It works for a while. She helps him obtain drugs by providing him with rhymes that he sells to Deuce. She unwittingly helps Juan rob a store, but she doesn’t turn him in. This would actually have been best for Juan. The story of this film is the story of how Cynthia realizes that she is not helping Juan by enabling his addiction and that a drug addict will use and destroy even those who love him in order to feed the addiction.
2. Name two world leaders who took inspiration from Anne Frank’s diary.
3. What did Cynthia and Jerome have in common?
4. If Anne Frank and Cynthia Gimenez were to meet each other (assuming that Cynthia was a real person, that Anne could come back from the dead, and that they could speak the same language) would they be friends? What do you think their relationship would be like?
5. In the movie Cynthia reads this passage from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: “Our lives were full of anxiety. Since many of our family members in Germany were suffering under Hitler’s Anti-Jewish laws. After May 1940, our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees. Jews were required to wear a yellow star. Jews could not have bicycles, Jews were banned from trams, Jews were forbidden to drive, even their own cars.” This passage occurs in the summer of 1942. Please find the date, review the passages around this language, and give us a complete list of the anti-Jewish decrees described by Anne.
6. In the movie Cynthia reads this passage from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: “We’re stuck in here like lepers. Believe me, if you’ve been shut up for over a year and half it can be too much sometimes. I can’t ignore my feelings no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem. Actually I shouldn’t be writing this because it makes me seem ungrateful, but I can’t keep everything to myself. So I’ll repeat what I said at the start – Paper is more patient than people.” Anne Frank wrote this in the winter of 1943/1944. Find the passage. What events occurred to make the concept that paper is more patient than people important to Anne?
1. Why was it difficult for Cynthia to rhyme in public?
2. Usually, when someone breaks out of the limits that their family or society has placed upon them, they have help and encouragement from at least one other person. Who encouraged Cynthia?
COMING OF AGE
3. See the Quick Discussion Question at the top of this Guide.
4. Name two things that Cynthia did that required extraordinary courage.
5. Was Darius courageous?
6. What was Cynthia’s surest and best way to get out of the poverty that she and her family found itself in?
ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE
7. At one point in the film, Juan is at the front door of Cynthia’s apartment. He bangs on the door, cries, calls to his mother and sisters and promises that this is the last time. Is this scene realistic? What does it tell us about the relationship between drug addicts and their families?
8. Is there a single person that Juan has contact with that he doesn’t betray, hustle, or abuse in some way?
9. In this movie, Juan kills two of Cynthia’s friends and is about to kill a third when the police arrest him. Cynthia can only start rapping in public after Juan is sent to jail. What are the screenwriters trying to tell us by these structural elements of the plot?
10. What is an enabler and who does Juan try to get to enable his addiction?
FAMILIES IN CRISIS
11. Why didn’t Cynthia’s sister tell Michael that she had a daughter by him? Was this the right decision?
12. What were the dynamics of the Gimenez family during the time shown in the film?
13. How did Cynthia survive?
14. Why was it difficult for Cynthia to believe that she had talent?
15. In the movie Cynthia reads this passage from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: “I want to go on living even after my own death. That is why I’m so grateful to God for giving me this gift. Which I can use to develop myself and express all that’s inside of me. When I write I can shake off my fears: my sorrow disappears.” This entry is in the spring of 1944. Find it, read the passages around it, and tell us what Anne is reacting to when she wrote this passage.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS (CHARACTER COUNTS)
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Be honest; Don’t deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal — stand by your family, friends and country)
1. Did Cynthia do the right thing to help Jerome cheat in school? The movie gives us the feeling that it wasn’t a big deal. Is that impression correct from the standpoint of ethics?
(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)
2. What would have happened if Cynthia had stopped trying?
(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)
3. Which characters in the film exemplified the caring Pillar of Character?
BRIDGES TO READING
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. See also this section of the Learning Guide to Four Films About Anne Frank.
LINKS TO THE INTERNET
In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:
- Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl;
- Quotations from Havel and Kennedy from “Anne’s Diary Spreads her story Chapter 6,” by Joyce Apsel, St. Petersburg Times, published October 18, 1999;
- Quotation from Nelson Mandela from Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Johannesburg Opening of the Anne Frank Exhibition at the Museum Africa, Johannesburg, 15 August 1994.