Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: The Virgin and the Gypsy, 1972. via The Efraín Barradas Collection
There are few things that make me as excited as movie poster design, unsurprising since it combines my two favorite visual media into one beautiful genre. I went through graduate school hoping I could write about posters but rarely getting the opportunity, until my final semester when I took a course on Latin American art during the Cold War. I immediately seized upon the chance to research Cuban film posters, which are truly fascinating both for their surrounding context and unique visual approach.
After the Cuban in Revolution in 1959, the cultural atmosphere in Cuba changed dramatically. In 1961, Fidel Castro’s landmark speech “Words to Intellectuals” set the standard for the new nation’s concept of revolutionary art. He advocated a culture that challenged the people to question, while also stressing the importance of literacy and education, thus creating a public that is actively engaged with cultural production and reception. This was known as a “cultural democracy.”
Cinema was always a wildly popular form of entertainment on the island, and the Cuban Institute of Cinema Art and Industry (ICAIC) was founded in 1959 to take over everything related to film production, distribution, and promotion. Most of the non-Cuban films screened in the 60s and 70s were from Soviet countries, Europe, and Japan, along with some American and Latin American titles (often sneakily entering the country through third parties). Because theaters were state-supported and barely charged admission, films didn’t really need to be advertised. Nevertheless ICAIC commissioned a unique poster for every single movie that played in Cuba, foreign or domestic, and allowed artists to go wild with their designs. Due to limited technology and ease of replication, every one is made through the silkscreen process, which involves step-by-step layering of different colors through stencils.
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: Foundry Town, 1969. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
One of my absolute favorite Cuban poster artists is Eduardo Muñoz Bachs. Born in Spain, Bachs moved to Cuba in 1941 in the wake of the Spanish Civil War. He was a self-taught artist, working as a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator and author over a long career. As a staff designer for ICAIC, he created around 2,000 film posters, the most of any single designer. His style is immediately distinctive, notable for its freedom of line and colorful palette. With such a large output, he became varied in his approach while still maintaining certain key stylistic tendencies, and very often his posters made sly references to their films’ plots while serving as intriguing compositions in their own right. Some are simplistic and naive, easily connected back to his background in children’s books, while others are marvelously intricate and free-flowing.
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: Tigers on the High Seas, 1963. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: Beata, 1965. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: The Leandras, 1971. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: Imposztorok (The Impostors), 1970. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: Lokis (The Bear), 1971. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: Love in the Afternoon, 1963. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: Face to Face, 1970. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: Sleeping Beauty, 1973. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
Eduardo Muñoz Bachs: The Hole, 1966. via Soy Cuba (my scan)
David Craven. Art and Revolution in Latin America, 1910-1990 (Yale University Press, 2002).
Carole Goodman and Claudio Sotolongo. Soy Cuba: Cuban Posters From After the Revolution (Trilce Ediciones, 2010).
David Kunzle. “Public Graphics in Cuba: A Very Cuban Form of Internationalist Art.” Latin American Perspectives 2 (1975): 89-110.by