New Stephen Fry documentary to centre queer WWII heroes

Willem Arondeus and Frieda Belinfante worked tirelessly to help Jewish people escape prosecution in the Netherlands.

Left: Stephen Fry, Right: an archive photo used in the documentary
Image: Twitter: @C4Press

Channel 4 has announced a new documentary featuring Stephen Fry, which will centre the lives of two queer World War II heroes. The production focuses on artist Willem Arondeus and cellist Frieda Belinfante who defiantly fought back against the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands.

The Dutch pair have a fascinating history, giving up their practices when the war broke out and opting instead to help Jewish people escape persecution in their country. Arondeus and Belinfante forged documents, saving countless lives, and even plotted to blow up the Central Records Office without harming anyone when the enemy soldiers began comparing their paperwork against real records.

Willem was caught and killed by a firing squad in 1943, but Frieda escaped to California where she later became a famous musician.

“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,” Stephen Fry said of the queer subjects of his documentary.

“Living their lives as openly gay in the 1930s was remarkable enough, but once the Nazis invaded their homeland of the Netherlands, they found in themselves a depth of courage and determination that is, across the years, still inspiring,” he stated.

“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.”

Within the documentary Willem and Frieda: A Story of Resistance (working title), Fry will serve as a the narrator while also sharing insights into his own personal experience with LGBTQ+ and social justice activism. The film will also feature previously unseen archive material and intimate interviews with people whose lives were touched by the bravery of the pair.

Produced and directed by double Emmy winner John Hay, written by Rik Carmichael, and executive produced by Julian Scott, the project is a part of Channel 4’s Secret History strand.

On the film, John Hay said: “It’s a privilege to be 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.”

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