In February 1939. Spanish republicans are fleeing Franco’s dictatorship to France. The French government built concentration camps, confining the refugees, where they barely have access to hygiene, water, and food. In one of these camps, separated by barbed wire, two men become friends. One is a French guard, the other is Josep Bartoli (1910-1995), an illustrator who fights against Franco’s regime.
In 1939, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, half a million Spanish republicans escaped from Franco’s dictatorship and fled to France. They stayed in a concentration camp near the border. Among them was Josep Bartolí, who endured life in the shabby concentration camp filled with violence. He then went to Mexico when World War II broke out. Josep, who was also Frida Kahlo’s lover, later moved to the United States and worked as a renowned illustrator, interacting with artists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, until he died at the age of 85 in 1995.
The director of the film, Aurel, used to work as a cartoonist for the French newspaper Le Monde. One day, Aurel saw and was moved by the works of Josep Bartolí and decided to transfer what he felt into an animation. So he depicted the turbulent life of Josep in his debut film. Of course, when Aurel describes Josep’s life in the concentration camp that hadn’t been documented thoroughly, to increase the dramatic effect, he had to depict Josep through Serge’s mouth, the French gendarme who is known to befriend him. He also had to create a fictional character, such as grandson Martin, who learns about the barbaric period. The rough quality of the drawings might feel unfamiliar to those who are used to refined animation. Still, the roughness is intended by the director, who seems to inherit Josep’s illustrative style. The film that took ten years of making will touch the audience with a sense of an epic film. Also, the scenes drawn with hearts throughout the film are the charm of the film. (CHUN Jinsu)
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