Mickey Rapkin at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

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By Joe Wilensky

Mickey Rapkin ’00 is best known for writing Pitch Perfect, the nonfiction book on the competitive collegiate a cappella scene (and on which the hit movie series was based). But his latest project delves into far weightier subjects.

Rapkin wrote and directed The Anne Frank Gift Shop, a new short film—billed as “a really dark comedy”—that is simultaneously humorous, satirical, and deeply emotional.

Featuring such actors as Kate Burton, Ari Graynor, and Josh Meyers, it was shortlisted for a 2024 Academy Award in its category.

The 15-minute movie revolves around a fictional pitch meeting attended by representatives of the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, staffers from a U.S. marketing firm, and a social media influencer—as the museum reps seek novel ways to make Anne’s story and the lessons of the Holocaust resonate with today’s youth.

That meeting (and the film overall) unfolds in a quirky, self-aware narrative style reminiscent of workplace comedies like The Office and Parks and Recreation—and the ideas that are tossed around range from absurd to solemn.

Movie poster for The Anne Frank Gift Shop

Such as: tweaking Anne’s smile in images of her; pitching a true-crime podcast (Who Betrayed Anne Frank?) to museum visitors; having a Holocaust survivor answer questions in the gift shop; and building a fictional Instagram account around Anne’s cat.

“For all of the comedy here—and The Anne Frank Gift Shop is a comedy, first—this film is personal,” Rapkin says. “It’s very Jewish to use comedy to process trauma.”

For all of the comedy here—and The Anne Frank Gift Shop is a comedy, first—this film is personal.

The movie premiered at the 2023 L.A. Short Film Festival and has since been featured at festivals in San Francisco and Atlanta.

More screenings are scheduled for April in Annapolis, Cleveland, and Miami; future showings and dates can be found on Instagram.

(And a trailer for the film is viewable on YouTube.)

Actors Josh Meyers and Kate Burton look skeptical in a scene from The Anne Frank Gift Shop.
The film's headliners include Josh Meyers (left) and Kate Burton. (Reboot Studios)

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The Jewish culture site Kveller called the film “joltingly, infectiously funny,” adding: “With every disarming peal of laughter, Rapkin and the movie’s characters also manage to open and soften the audience, allowing them to impart some inalienable truths about the Holocaust and its memory.”

In a piece titled “How Do You Market Anne Frank to Gen Z?,” GQ notes the “darkly funny and ultimately moving turns by a strong cast” and says the film “provides a poignant meta-commentary on our continually robust Anne Frank discourse.”

Mickey Rapkin sings with the Cayuga’s Waiters during his Cornell days
Singing his heart out with the Cayuga’s Waiters. (Provided)

On the Hill, Rapkin majored in communication in CALS and sang with the Cayuga’s Waiters—an experience that inspired Pitch Perfect.

A former senior editor at GQ, he also penned Theater Geek: The Real Life Drama of a Summer at Stagedoor Manor and co-directed the documentary Old Men Singing.

The idea for The Anne Frank Gift Shop, he says, stemmed from a 2020 study indicating that a majority of young Americans don’t know basic facts about the Holocaust. 

“Two-thirds couldn’t tell you how many Jews were killed; 11% somehow believe Jews ‘caused’ the Holocaust,” Rapkin says. “This isn’t ancient history. If Anne Frank were alive today, she’d be three years younger than Mel Brooks—and he just had a show on Hulu.”

Mickey Rapkin, at left, on the set of The Anne Frank Gift Shop during filming
Rapkin (far left) on set. (Reboot Studios)

In the film, Burton (as one of the museum reps) gives voice to Rapkin’s mission to keep the Holocaust’s memory alive—and underscores how vital it is that humanity never forgets.

“I do not know how to reach young people,” she says. “But the cost of doing nothing—that I do know. We have to tell this story, again and again and again. Every which way. Or it will happen again.”

Top: Rapkin at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in 2023. (Lori Eanes)

Published March 21, 2024

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