Cabu, the man holding the pen

Jean Cabut, better known as Cabu, the French cartoonist who died in the January 7 attacks on Charlie Hebdo, was more than a cartoonist. He was also an anti-militarist, an anti-clerical, a ecologist and, ultimately, a journalist.

In 2006, just as Cabu’s Charlie Hebdo began to attract international attention for its portrayals of the prophet Mohammed, Jérome Lambert and Philippe Picard made a film about him. Shown in Perugia almost a decade later, the documentary Cabu: politiquement incorrect, helped better understand Cabu, his work, and the loss the death of France’s best cartoonist, as Lambert and Picard called him, represents.

The documentary showed that Cabu liked a laugh, but was no fool. His work constantly targeted those in power because nothing, especially power, should be sacred. In the documentary, which was focusing on his work since the early 1960s, Cabu remembered May 1968 as the only time he actually thought the world would change. That was when millions of people took to the streets in France shouting “it’s forbidden to forbid.” This was Charlie Hebdo’s motto, according to Lambert.

Remembering Cabu, Lambert said: “He was fundamentally a kind person.” Both him and Picard agreed that he’d have felt uncomfortable with the kind of praise and attention following Charlie Hebdo’s attack. Asked by a journalist what would Cabu have done in seeing the world leader’s march, Lambert said: “He would have drawn something like a pigeon shitting on François Hollande.”

In this interview, the two film-makers discussed what Cabu’s work meant to them.