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Josep Bartoli

Josep by Aurel, a movie on Josep Bartoli’ life

Josep, by Aurel, screenplay Jean-Louis Milesi, Josep Bartoli’s  story of drawing to survive.

Audiovisual creation today is of an unprecedented richness. In addition to movies and series, we are witnessing the emergence of a generation of young, free and committed creators in animation movies.

Aurel, a press cartoonist, did  his first animated feature film with Josep. If you only have to see one film this year, it has to be this one.




An indispensable movie on memory




Like Maus, a comic book created by Art Spiegelman about the Holocaust, which received the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, Aurel made, with Josep, an indispensable film, an  historical document that everyone should see.

A French, Belgian and Spanish co-production, Josep‘s story is told, as was Maus, through the story of a grandfather to his grandson. Josep tells the story of the friendship between Josep Bartolí, a Spanish press cartoonist who was a prisoner in the Bram camp, and a French gendarme, through the barbed wire.


The Retirada


Taken prisoner in February 1939 at the time of La Retirada (mass exodus of Spanish resistants after three years of war against Franco), Josep Bartoli  to survive in in the Bram camp, concentration camp built by France to prevent the massive flow of Spaniards fleeing the dictatorship.

In these concentration camps (Barcarès, Rivesaltes, Agde, Bram and Saint-Cyprien), the Spanish, separated men, women and children, fight for their survival, in the cold, hunger, against torture, facing rape of women, as prisoners of the French gendarmes and colonized troops.

Josep Bartoli drew to survive. Art helped him to project himself, to remain human, to bear witness. Thousands of drawings have been recovered from concentration camp survivors and kept at the Shoah Memorial. Josep published Campos de Concentracion and La Retirada after the war.

The power of animation is to allow the truth to appear on the screen. Indeed, when an actor is not in the absolute truth of his(her) part, the truthfulness of the story suffers. These are the limits of real images and fiction in the transmission of memory on screen.

Josep is just the opposite, we are completely immersed in the story of Josep Bartolí, a strong, moving narrative about memory that leaves an indelible mark on us.


Freedom, equality, fraternity


The confinement in France of resistance fighters to fascism was very little shown on the screen.

One thinks of course of the images of Robert Capa, and Ernest Hemingway with For Whom the Bell Tolls and their struggles alongside the Spaniards who fought against the dictatorship. Josep pays tribute to them.

Humanity is at the heart of this film. Courage and commitment versus cowardice, ignorance, racism, fear of the other.

Without being Manichaeist, the character of the gendarme embodies the France of that time. But what about today? Has France changed? Has Europe evolved compared to the pre-war period? The resonance of this story with the fate of migrants, whom no one wants, and where in France, associations are forbidden to give them food, (read this amazing article here).

What happens to the values of humanity, the values dear to France of freedom, equality, fraternity?


Laughter and tears of a committed artist


The graphic design of Josep’s drawings, his way of drawing human beings and caricaturing their defects, the progressive addition of color, the dialogues of Jean-Louis Milesi and the music of Silvia Perez Cruz, make us go from laughter to tears.

The character of the gendarme is undoubtedly René Sidovra, a French army captain whom Josep Bartolí, then ill with typhus, met at the military hospital in Perpignan after surviving seven concentration camps.


A total artist


Aurel takes us on a journey through time and space.

Josep Bartoli was not only Frida Kahlo‘s lover, but he was part of the 10th Street Group and rubbed shoulders with Rothko, Pollock, Kline and De Kooning.

He was also a scenographic advisor and costume designer on films such as Captain from Castil shot in Hollywood in 1947, by Henri King with Tyron Power and in 1975 published a book entitled The Black Man in America.




A documentary by Vincent Marie was made about Josep Bartolí “Bartolí, the drawing for memory”.



This film was selected at the Cannes Film Festival 2020.



Music: Sílvia Pérez Cruz
Editing : Thomas Belair
Production : Serge Lalou
co-production: Jordi B. Oliva
Executive production: Catherine Estèves
Production companies: Les Films d’Ici Méditerranée, with the support of the Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes and the Occitanie Region.
Distribution companies: Dulac Distribution (France), The Party Sales

Sergi López : Josep Bartolí
Sílvia Pérez Cruz : Frida Kahlo
Alain Cauchi : Léon
David Marsais : Valentin
Valérie Lemercier : Valentin’s mother
Bruno Solo : the gendarme
Gérard Hernandez : the grand father
François Morel : Robert
Sophia Aram :  the nurse


Sílvia Pérez Cruz


To learn more about Josep Bartoli

Aurel et Bartolí, les dessins pour survivre

Josep Bartolí Guiu, peintre, dessinateur et écrivain

Mémorial du camp de Rivesaltes

Un Mémorial au camp de Bram

Interview of Aurel (CNC)

Nécrologie du site américain UPI


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