Institut Ramon LLull

Josep Bartolí's Imprint: A Catalan Exile at the Center of New York's Avant-Garde Scene

Cinema.  New York, ONLINE, 28/01/2021

A touching tribute from one illustrator to another, Josep, an award-winning debut feature film by Le Monde cartoonist Aurel recounts a painful chapter of French history through the life of Catalan artist Josep Bartolí. During the Spanish Civil War, Bartolí, an anti-Franco activist, fled across the Pyrénées in hopes of finding freedom in France. However, French police captured and held him in a series of refugee camps. Drawing on Bartolí’s evocative sketches, Aurel paints an impressionistic and sensitive portrait of the artist in stark contrast to life within the brutal camps, as well as the redeeming humanity of a sympathetic gendarme who helped him escape. 

The unknown story of a brilliant illustrator who survived the Spanish Civil War only to be interned in a French concentration camp, where he was beaten, tortured and starved to death for several years until he escaped and eventually made it over to Mexico, where he became the lover of Frida Kahlo, after which he moved to New York and frequented painters like Rothko and De Kooning, is definitely one worth telling.

And yet, the animated feature Josep, about the turbulent life of Catalan artist Josep Bartolí, is perhaps more interesting in what it suggests than what it says, creating an impressionistic portrait of the man in same the way Bartolí’s elaborate sketches gave us glimpses into the pain and plight suffered by the Spanish people. 

Bartolí was born in Barcelona in 1910 and died in Manhattan in 1995, but Josep focuses almost exclusively on the years he spent as an exile in France, where he arrived early in 1939 after escaping his home city when it fell to Franco’s Nationalist forces.

Once over the border, Bartolí and hundreds of thousands of other refugees from Catalonia were packed into prison camps and left to die of disease and starvation, with the French government showing little sympathy for the new arrivals. 

The relationship between the French gendarme and the Spanish artist forms the crux of the story, although the film is more of a chronicle of privation and suffering than it is a full-fledged drama, with Aurel providing a visual exposé of Bartolí's long period of captivity.

The animation is backed by the voice of Spanish singer Silvia Pérez Cruz, whose traditional canciones evoke a period filled with flashes of joy and much sadness. -- Jordan Mintzer for The Hollywood Reporter. Read full article here.

2020, France, Spain, Belgium. Color. 72 min.

In French, Spanish, Catalan, and English with English subtitles.

With the voices of Sergi López, Valérie Lemercier, François Morel, Bruno Solo.

Executive producer: Jordi B Oliva , Serge Lalou.

Director/s: Aurel

Screenplay: Jean-Louis Milesi

Music Composer: Sílvia Pérez Cruz

More info: Catalan Films


FI:AF Animation First Festival 2021

February 5-15, 2021

JOSEPUS Premiere

Mon Feb 8, 2021, 1:00pm EST. A talk with George Bartolí, photojournalist and nephew of Josep Bartolí, Sebastiaan Faber, professor of Hispanic Studies at Oberlin College, and Pilar Parcerisas, author of the book "Josep Bartolí, un creador a l'exili". Free. Watch here.

Thur Feb 11 at 6:30pm EST. A talk with Aurel, screenwriter Jean-Louis Milesi, and Bartoli’s widow Bernice Broomberg as part of the FI:AF Animation First Festival. 


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