ANNECY– Paris-based sales agent Doc & Film International has picked up international rights to the feature debut of Aurélien Froment (known as Aurel), “Josep” which was presented during a packed WIP session at the Annecy Festival on Tuesday.
The feature is an emotional and beautifully crafted portrait of Josep Bartolí, the Catalan illustrator, soldier, Hollywood stage designer, and painter who fought in the Spanish Civil War and fled to Mexico after escaping from a concentration camp. In the U.S. he was part of the influential 10th Street artists group, which included luminaries like Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. After landing on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s blacklist during his tenure in Hollywood, Bartolí was forced to flee to Mexico. He died in New York at the age of 85, leaving a noteworthy and yet poorly recognized artistic legacy.
Bartolí’s amazing life journey inspired the film, a veritable love-story and homage to a passion for drawing. “Picking up ‘Josep’ was a natural decision,” said Daniela Elstner at Doc & Film.
“‘Josep’ is a film about the act of drawing, its meaning and its imperative necessity. At a time where everyone is overwhelmed by so many images, we believe in its political message, in Aurel’s poetic vision, and also in the incredible team working with him.”
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Elstner expressed confidence about the wide-ranging appeal of “Josep.” “Bartolí’s story is universal and timeless: we will always need sincere artists able to challenge us through their drawings, to offer us new perspectives to debate,” she said. “Just like Bartolí, Aurel comes from this space where drawing is a commitment. Such similarities between the two of them makes this project very special to us.”
“Josep” is produced by Serge Lalou at Les Films d’Ici Méditerranée, in co-production with Les Films du Poisson Rouge, In Efecto, Tchack, Les Films d’Ici, Belgium’s Lunanime and Promenons-nous dans les bois, Barcelona-based B-Water Studio and Guilhem Pratz as associate producer. Spanish singer Silvia Pérez Cruz (“A Twelve Years Night,” “The Fury of a Patient Man”) will compose the film’s soundtrack. Script is penned by Jean-Louis Milesi (“Where the Heart is,” “Lino”), a frequent collaborator of French auteur Robert Guediguian.
Aurel explained that the film will have two main segments, “a contemporary one and another, memories-based one. The first one offers a more ‘classic’ approach on animation. The memories-driven part is much more based on drawings.”
He continued: “Drawings are what I do. What Josep did. We are graphic artists. Drawing artists. We try to transcribe movement into a non-movement picture. We try to capture real action and to summarize it in just one drawing. This is what I try to explore in this part of the movie, as if we would invite the viewers to watch the illustrator’s work over his shoulder… plugged in to his own imagination.”
At the WIP session, Aurel described the process behind several scenes still in the conceptual stage, from the decoupage to the incorporation of color and animation. He said he created reference drawings for the animation studios with low-quality paper, charcoal, pencils and old brushes soaked in dirty water, to evocative effect.
“Josep” is slated for release in spring 2020. It will be released in France via Sophie Dulac Distribution.
French, English, Catalan and Spanish will be spoken in the film, whose voice casting includes Sergi López, Gerard Hernandez and François Morel. Pérez Cruz will also voice three characters, including Frida Kahlo, Bartolí’s lover during his time in Mexico.
At Annecy’s WIP session, Cruz sang a segment of a poem by Spanish poet Miguel Hernández (“War”) included in the film, which was received with applause.