Josep (2020) - 7/10
Updated: Apr 25
You could write down what I know of the Spanish Civil War on the back of an ant, nada! This tells the story of Josep Bartoli, a Catalan artist who lived through it. The illustrative animated style therefore makes perfect sense. Heavy purposeful lines with just enough detail, minimal shading, muted watercolour washes for the war time scenes. A little more detail and crispness for the modern day, it’s really nice. Although I think I’d have preferred it to have mimicked Bartoli’s own style. The animation is subtle in its motion, fluid only where it needs to be, but every frame looks beautiful, looks drawn. It’s got soul and feeling. The story is told via a young French teen, who himself likes to draw. Valentin finds himself reluctantly looking after his grandfather one afternoon. I’m not going to give you a history lesson but this is what Valentin gets, of the French concentration camps in ‘39 that housed the displaced Catalans when Barcelona fell to Franco’s fascists. The grandfather, Serge, a French officer guarding the prisoner like refugees, is not a well man, he tells his grandson his story and in doing so, Josep’s. Serge is a sensitive soul, sympathetic to the Catalans in their misery. Hunger and disease are rife in the camp. He takes pity. Seeing Josep scribbling on the side of a hut, he gives him a pencil and some paper. Granting him some salvation and means to capture life in the camp. Google Josep’s work, the scribbled line drawings depict the some of the inhumanity we know from the Nazis atrocities to follow a few years later. It’s hard not to conclude that this might’ve been a better way to illustrate this. This does feel like the harsh story has had the edges rounded a little, by the animation and the way it’s told. We’ve a cast of undesirable power hungry characters though. Telling the story of the bigger picture through individual experience. Struggling to survive. To find loves ones. Everyone has their choices to make, as the Nazis take control of the narrative and the Resistance comes into play. It’s a great piece of work, reminds me a little of Waltz with Bashir. Definitely one to seek out... even if you don’t learn a great deal about the Spanish Civil War.