This sober poster for the 39th edition of the Festival, included in the exhibition Cuarenta años en Carteles (Forty Years in Posters), differs from the current one, with bright colors and a touch of humor. Photo: ICAIC

Any movie buff knows that Cuban film posters are legendary. It is wonderful to be able to state, without being considered an exaggeration, that Cuban artists have created a School in this genre.

Beyond any chauvinist sentiment, I quote from the book Ciudadano cartel, by Sara Vega and Alicia García, what was expressed in this regard by Italian actor Gian María Volonté: “Cuban film posters are unique because they give cinema its true dimension”; U.S. director Francis Ford Coppola: “I am a passionate admirer and collector of Cuban posters”; and writer Susan Sontag: “A poster by Tony Reboiro or Eduardo Muñoz Bachs, besides fulfilling his advertising mission, is an authentic work of art.”

Quality is almost always divorced from quantity but nevertheless, the collection of the Cinematheque of Cuba, with almost 3,000 posters, disproves this idea such that it has been deservedly included in the National and Regional Registers of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.

Important designers and painters contributed to these posters, using the distinctive silkscreen print technique. Muñoz Bachs, Reboiro, Rostgaard, Morante, Oliva, Ñiko, Azcuy, Julio Eloy, as well as René Portocarrero (Soy Cuba), Servando Cabrera Moreno (Páginas del diario de José Martí, Retrato de Teresa) and Raúl Martínez (Lucía), to name a few, created seminal works.

Ciudadano cartel offers further names in the section “Collaborators and unknowns,” and recalls posters signed by artists the likes of Cubans, Zaida del Río, Alicia Leal, Flora Fong and Nelson Domínguez; Spaniard, Antonio Saura, and Chilean, Roberto Matta, which “are today a rarity.”

These posters were aimed at promoting both national and foreign films, Cuban film series in other countries, exhibitions, retrospectives, anniversaries, tributes to directors, actors and festivals; in which the great visual beauty and communicative efficiency of the graphic message did not mean a strictly pure depiction of the film content.

This 40th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema features several exhibitions of Cuban film posters, including Cuarenta años en Carteles (Forty Years in Posters – in the lobby of the 23 y 12 cinema), Otra vez… otros clásicos (Again... other classics - Galería 23 y 12), and Titón. 90 aniversario (Titón: 90th Birthday - Galería Saúl Yelín, Casa del Festival).

In addition, 24 posters are competing for the Coral Award, from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Spain and Mexico.

Art critic Nelson Herrera Ysla states in the prologue of the abovementioned book: “The film poster became the most visible face of Cuban art in the first decades of the second half of the last century (...). Then it declined (...) and even feared for its survival. But no. Like any good Phoenix, it resurfaced from the hands of enthusiastic young artists at the dawn of the 21st century, to again soar toward the island’s blue sky, its cinemas and cities...”

The exhibitions organized as part of this year’s Festival help to understand that the legend of the Cuban film poster is a reality.