Channel 4 and Stephen Fry are to tell the incredible true story of how a group of misfits, including a gay artist, a lesbian musician and Jewish activists pulled off one of the most daring and far-reaching acts of sabotage in the history of the Dutch resistance. This 1x90 documentary will foreground the stories of artist Willem Arondeus and cellist Frieda Belinfante who lived openly gay lives in the Netherlands. Together they forged identity papers for Jews, saving countless lives. When the Nazis began to check the false paperwork against real files they came up with a daring plan to blow up the Central Records Office but without harming anyone. Willem was ultimately apprehended and killed by firing squad in 1943 while Frieda managed to escape to California, where she became a celebrated musician.
‘Willem and Frieda: A Story of Resistance (w/t),' presented by Stephen Fry, will use previously unseen archive material and intimate interviews with those whose lives were inspired by the pair’s bravery and will reveal not only a story from history but also, through Stephen’s own experience, today’s struggles for gay rights and the power of individuals to affect change. It is a part of the channel’s Secret History strand.
The film, from Atticus Films and Television Ltd, is be produced and directed by double Emmy winner John Hay, written by Rik Carmichael and executive produced by Julian Scott.
Stephen Fry says: “I confess that, before Rik Carmichael and John Hay sent me the fruits of their amazing research, I had never heard of Willem Arondeus or Frieda Belinfante — a pair whom I now regard as being authentic and remarkable heroes. Living their lives as openly gay in the 1930s was remarkable enough, but once the Nazi's invaded their homeland of the Netherlands, they found in themselves a depth of courage and determination that is, across the years, still inspiring. It's a question we often ask ourselves – how would I respond to the occupation of my country? Would I fight for freedom or duck down and keep out of trouble? I think the world needs to be reminded of Willem and Frieda, ordinary people who found extraordinary inner resources…”
John Hay says: “It’s a privilege to able to tell Willem Arondeus and Frieda Belinfante's remarkable story through Stephen’s eyes and illuminate a shadowed past in a highly emotional feature documentary that will grip, hold and surprise an audience in equal measure.”
Shaminder Nahal, Head of Specialist Factual Commissioning says: “This is such a compelling pairing of a fascinating and largely unknown story with the brilliant wit and insight of Stephen Fry. I hope this film goes some way in elevating the significance and awareness of Willem, Frieda and all of those who were a part of the extraordinary resistance against fascism in World War II.”