When Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers Of Democracy aired at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last year, it was considered too niche to pick up sales. A year on and it could be one of the most important films of the year; an incredibly rich and detailed immersion into the daily lives of cartoonists, in 12 countries around the world; breathtaking in its reach and span.
Director Stéphanie Valloatto and Jewish Romanian/French producer Radu Mihaileanu (Live And Become and The Concert) travel from Moscow, to Caracas, to Jerusalem, to Beijing, to Paris, to New York… to interview cartoonists whose work endangers their lives. We meet Russia’s most famous cartoonist Zlatkovsky, the winner of hundreds of international awards, now banned from publishing his work; Israeli cartoonist Kichka who works in Jerusalem; his Palestinian friend and counterpart Boukhari, who lives in Ramallah; the young maverick cartoonist Pi San from Beijing, who’s inspiring a young generation of Chinese to fight with their art; New Yorker cartoonist Jeff Danziger; Le Monde’s Plantu; and the brave and feisty Rayma in Caracas. Observing them at work lets the viewer learn about life in each of their countries. As Mihaileanu says, “This film is full of powerful, funny, profound stories of individual lives, but it is also a geopolitical map of the world.”
Perversely, Cartoonists is now essential viewing. Understanding the context within which a newspaper drawing delights, confuses, or shocks us is now necessary. These “foot soldiers” are receiving a level of attention that is unprecedented; their work is finally high currency, for all the wrong reasons; higher, even, than text.
One of the reasons Valloatto and Mihaileanu made Cartoonists is to encourage a young generation to express themselves. “One of the film’s aims is to show young people the importance of having a voice, an opinion”, Valloatto explains, “which involves having the courage of one’s convictions in defending freedom of expression. The cartoonists’ message to youth is fundamental: dare to have an opinion”.
Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers Of Democracy will show at a one-off UK Jewish Film screening at JW3, London, at 8pm on Wed Feb 25th. A panel with David Aaronovitch, columnist of The Times; Jodie Ginsberg, the CEO of UK charity Index on Censorship; Marf, the cartoonist of The Week and Evening Standard; and Jewish Quarterly online editor and UK Jewish Film programmer Nicola Christie, will follow. To book discounted tickets of £8.50, use the promo code JQCartoonists, within the online booking process, or via the JW3 box office.