The moving story of political cartoonist and exile Josep Bartolí

Aurel’s multi-award-winning animated debut film Josep featured at Summerhall on January 30 and February 6 as part of the French Film Festival UK.

Introduced by the director of CinemaAttic and Catalan Film Festival Rafael Cueto in the small theatre of no more than 30 people, it made for an intimate viewing befitting to the emotional content and format of the film.

While this semi-biographical film may be told from the fictionalized perspective of a dying gendarme to his at first disinterested grandson, Catalan political cartoonist and exile Josep Bartolí experiences in French and Gestapo internment camps are genuine.

After fighting in Spanish Civil War, Josep flees Franco’s regime to France, and public opinion about Spanish refugees in the country is not on his side. Separated from his pregnant fiancé who we later learn died in a Nazi bombing of her train, Josep poignantly captures the reality, abuse and injustices he experiences and witnesses during internment on pencil and paper, which feature in with Aurel’s own reimagining of Josep’s tale.

After Josep escapes – twice – he ends up in Mexico where he meets Frida Kahlo, who had made a cameo earlier in the film in one of the moments where Aurel blends reality and dream-like fantasy, and publishes them in Campos de concentración, which you can still find in print today.

An all-altogether moving film whose deliberate use of colour with hints of magical realism and humour contrast with the grotesque nature of others to evoke conflicting emotions.

Especially when combined with the harrowing reality of abuse, starvation and deprivation experienced by Josep and indeed all those forced into internment camps, and his rather colourful – literally in this animation – life afterwards.