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Animated film "Josep" about Spanish artists

Status: 04/08/2021 11:43 a.m.

The Spanish artist Josep Bartoli worked with Frida Kahlo in The French cartoonist Aurel made an animated film about Bartoli about him.

by Hartwig Tegeler

1939 on the northern border of Spain. Franco won the Spanish Civil War. Half a million Republican fighters seek refuge in France. At the beginning you can see men dragging themselves to the border in the snow.

In "Josep" we see roughly drawn figures, animated in wobbly movements. No Pixar perfection. One of them is Josep. Now he ends up in the French internment camp. The situation in these French camps is horrific because the internees are left to fend for themselves, to their hunger and insufficient medical supplies.

In "Josep", director Aurel depicts the horror of the Spanish civil war

Director Aurel traces this horror in "Josep" in just a few lines. "Tracing" is not a metaphor, but rather the minimalist style of drawing with which the cartoonist of "Le Monde", real name Aurélien Froment, animates his story.

Then in the film a cut from the 1930s to the present day. "You would not have recognized me then," says the old man to his grandson, to whom he tells his story from back then. Serge, a French gendarme, guarded the interned Spaniards, including Josep, the draftsman and painter.

Friendship with the security guard ensures survival

The film is of course also a bow from the cartoonist Aurel to his old colleague. He tells of the fate of the artist Josep in this place of horror and he tells of the slowly developing friendship with the security guard Serge, who slips Josep paper and a pen.

Serge will later enable Josep to escape from the camp. But Serge will also help the Nazis with the deportation of the interned Jews to the concentration camps, and again later he fights as a member of the Resistance. "Josep", the film, tells of breaks, light and dark sides of a person.

Film about the inaccuracies of getting older

Aurel's film is a film about our memories, which become more and more imprecise over the years. In the case of Serge's stories to his grandson, for example, it is sometimes not clear whether the old man practically "slips" into the experiences of his Spanish friend. Does Josep remember Serge? Or does Serge himself remember Josep through his memory?

The biopic "Josep" about the largely unknown artist Josep Bartoli is, above all, wonderful proof that a great story sometimes needs no more than a few lines, a few colors, sound and music, and is created the power of a narrative.

With comic style across borders and times

Filmmaker Aurel staged his animated film in an impressive way with pictures in comic style. And manages to jump over times and borders into the discourse of our time, where people - fled from war and violence - are living in camps again.

"Josep" can be seen on the arthouse streaming service MUBI and as VideoOnDemand on amazon, iTunes or Google Play.


Year of production:
Production country:
France, Spain, Belgium

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NDR culture | Classic in the day | 04/01/2021 | 07:20 am