OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Teeth, a cigar and a guayabera, for the vampire created by Juan Padrón. Photo: Granma

Eduardo Muñoz Bachs is without doubt the most important, famed, and prolific exponent of what has come to be known as the Cuban School of Film Posters.

His name returns to the headlines today, not due to any anniversary or particular tribute, but because the Cinematheque of Cuba’s Cuban Film Posters Collection has been included in the National Registry of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture’s (UNESCO) Memory of the World Programme.

The project which started in 1992 not only has the purpose of preserving documentary heritage of international relevance, but also of promoting it, and registrations are proposed by UNESCO National and Regional committees.

Three Cuban archives already feature in the Memory of the World Register: the José Martí Pérez Funds (2005); the original negatives of the ICAIC Latin-American Newsreels (2009); and the Documentary Collection “Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara: from the originals manuscripts of his adolescence and youth to the campaign Diary in Bolivia” (2013).

“The Cuban Posters collection is an essential part of ICAIC’s heritage. They are the graphic expression that accompanied Cuban cinematography throughout the history of its development,” read the text explaining the inclusion in the Register presented by Nuria Gregori, president of the Cuban Committee of the UNESCO Program.

The first poster for Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s first film following the triumph of the Revolution. Photo: Granma

In the book Ciudadano cartel, by Sara Vega, Alicia García, and Claudio Sotolongo (Icaic Editions, 2011), important figures of world cinema who have referred to Cuban film posters are cited. For example: Italian actor Gian Maria Volonté, stated: “Cuban film posters are unique because they give the cinema its true dimension”; French actress Jeanne Moreau: “Cuban movie poster artists are designers and poets”; and U.S. director Francis Ford Coppola: “I am a passionate admirer and collector of Cuban posters.”

Ever since Muñoz Bachs created his poster for the Cuban film Historias de la Revolución (1960), by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, the Cuban Cinematheque has zealously safeguarded some 3,000 works.

The earliest works include posters by Antonio Fernández Reboiro, Rafael Morante, Julio Eloy, Rostgaard, Héctor Villaverde, Rene Azcuy, and Antonio Pérez (Ñiko), and even noteworthy Cuban and international artists, such as René Portocarrero for the First Week of Polish Cinema in 1961; Raúl Martínez, who restated his preference for Pop Art in the classic poster for Lucía by Humberto Solás in 1968; or Spain’s Antonio Saura, creator of the poster for Memories of Underdevelopment, by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1968).

Bachs depicted the classic Charles Chaplin. Photo: Granma

Of these works of art, now part of world heritage, more than a thousand are signed by Muñoz Bachs.

AN UNMISTAKEABLE SIGNATURE

Eduardo Muñoz Bachs (Valencia, Spain, 1937 - Havana, Cuba, 2001) is a central name in the world of Cuban posters. Film lovers know that it is sometimes the image of a film poster that initially draws audiences to see a movie.

This master of design, in his intense and extensive work was also a draftsman, painter, illustrator, and graphic designer, although his most significant work is that linked to film.

His film posters have a personal mark, which won him numerous awards at major film festivals: Leipzig, Ottawa, Cannes, Paris; from The Hollywood Reporter, and six Coral prizes in different editions of the Havana International Festival of New Latin American Cinema.

Muñoz Bachs’ relationship with Cuban cinema began in 1960, as noted, with nothing less than the poster for the movie Historias de la Revolución.

A dramatic poster for the documentary by Estela Bravo. Photo: Granma

One of his colleagues, designer Héctor Villaverde, speaking at the inauguration of the exhibition Posters by Bachs, held in Veracruz, Mexico, in 2000, noted: “Curiously, in this first poster by Bachs, made at the request of Gutiérrez Alea himself, the designer uses a black-and-white photo of a scene from the film printed in offset, something that he would never repeat in his poster production.”

Muñoz Bachs sought his own signature, and succeeded. The designer explained his method of work in a newspaper interview: “Once I see the film, I seek an idea, I make very small and simple sketches, two inches or so, and when one satisfies me, I directly proceed to creating it. Thus, the design is spontaneous, freer.”

The result is, as Villaverde stated, “a style as far removed from photographic realism as we can imagine, his personal use of color extracts all the possibilities that the technique of screen printing allows.”

The magnificent work of Muñoz Bachs is part of the history of Cuban, Latin American, and world cinema posters, as he created works for Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, English, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican films, capturing the essence of each, but, as was pointed out at the time, made in a “Cuban style,” or rather the “Muñoz Bachs style.”

One of Spanish director Carlos Saura’s most acclaimed films. Photo: Granma

He was a prolific designer, although obviously it is not only the quantity, but the quality of his work, with a perfectly recognizable style, that won him such acclaim. He has rightly been regarded as the most important Cuban poster artist.

Who doesn’t think of Muñóz Bachs on seeing a Cuban poster of Chaplin’s Tramp? Who fails to be moved on seeing the poster for Missing Children, by documentary maker Estela Bravo? Who doesn’t laugh at the poster Por primera vez, the documentary by Octavio Cortázar?

His signature is unmistakable, original, with precise features, direct, extremely elaborate, meticulous and also, of course, filled with grace, humor, and intelligent satire.

Eduardo Muñoz Bachs left behind unforgettable works, besides those already mentioned, including: La fortaleza escondida, 1965; La quimera del oro, 1962; Hamlet, 1964; Desierto rojo, 1966; Gallego, 1988; all in the style that made him a legend of Cuban poster art.

Shakespearian drama as portrayed by Russia’s Grigori Kozintsov, with the great actor Innokenti Smoktunovski. Photo: Granma