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.
Screenplay: Jean-Louis Milesi
Music Composer: Sílvia Pérez Cruz
More info: Catalan Films