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Cuban movie posters, a gem of the island recognized by UNESCO

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The Cuban movie posters have just been registered as a Documentary World Heritage by UNESCO, thus giving recognition to its designers and visibility to a hidden gem of the island’s art of the last many years.

“Expected and deserved,” that is how the director and representative of the regional office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Anne Lemaistre, sees it. She explained in an interview with EFE that this program “advocates for the conservation of audiovisual heritage, which can be the collective memory of the world.”

The presence of this Cuban collection within the international Memory of the World register is, for Lemaistre, a recognition of the “great creative originality present in these posters, the graphic beauty and the communicative effectiveness of those documents.”

She recalls that since 1992 — when this category of registration that features audiovisuals and manuscripts was created — 430 world heritage works have been registered.

From Cuba, the writings of nation hero José Martí Foundation have also been included; in addition to the negatives of the newscast from the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) and original manuscripts of the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla Ernesto “Che” Guevara, including his campaign diary in Bolivia.

Lemaistre highlighted the “immense” and “very special” talent of Cuban designers, who “with few means, but with the strategy of silk screen printing, managed to encapsulate — with some colours and a really affirmed design — the essence of a movie” with “great visual impact.”

“I believe these posters give Cuba great visibility, it’s a picture of Cuba amongst others and a visible education tool for a complete Cuban generation,” she said.

Visible heritage

Along the identical lines, Sara Vega, a specialist in graphics from the Cuban Cinematheque and in command of the virtually 3,000 pieces that make up the gathering, is pleased for having contributed to “this being digitized, preserved and having this result at a global level.”

Along with protecting and studying the Cuban movie poster, Vega explained to EFE that her fundamental task is to reveal the gathering to the general public eye because “heritage that shouldn’t be made visible is as if it didn’t exist.”

And, specifically, she attaches great importance to creating these pieces available to “the younger people, an emerging audience, designers and students who need these references to maneuver forward” within the visual arts on the island.

Its declaration as a World Heritage is “super necessary” since it recognizes the admirable work of many designers who intervened within the promotion of each Cuban and foreign cinema in addition to its festivals, retrospectives and exhibitions.

The primary poster

Vega recalls the history of Cuban movie posters after the creation of ICAIC in 1959 — with the triumph of the revolution —, when it was decided that the movies to be shown in Cuba — each national and foreign — can be accompanied by a poster.

The Cuban film Historias de la revolución, directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, released in 1960, was the primary fiction feature film made by ICAIC and the one which premiered the poster created by designer Eduardo Muñoz Bachs.

Then the offset printing technique was modified to silk screen printing and the movie poster format can be standard. The designers, who got here from promoting or the plastic arts, turned to create with symbols and metaphors, interpreting the theme of the film.

“In other words, movies took to the streets and brought the general public into the theaters based on the actions of those designers with their posters,” the specialist said.

Clockwise, Luciano Castillo, director of the Cuban Cinematheque; Anne Lemaistre, director and representative of the UNESCO regional office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Sara Vega, graphics specialist on the Cuban Cinematheque and in command of the virtually 3,000 pieces that make up the national collection of movie posters, during a press conference in Havana. Photo: Yander Zamora/EFE.

Amongst a lot of its creators, Vega cited the Cubans Rafael Morante, René Azcuy, Alfredo Rostgaard, Antonio Pérez (Ñiko), the painters Servando Cabrera and Raúl Martínez, in addition to the Chilean Roberto Matta and the Spanish Antonio Saura, amongst others.

They appropriated the essence of movies like Besos Robados, Lucía, Memorias del Subdesarrollo, Fresa y chocolate, La última cena, La bella del Alhambra and Sacco y Vanzetti to accompany their promotion on the island with the graphics.

Reproductions of this collection of film posters have covered the partitions and ceiling of the lobby of the ICAIC headquarters in Havana for years, an area that Vega sees as a everlasting exhibition gallery.

The set of film posters and the capitular minutes of the Havana City Hall (1550-1898) rose to the international level of the Memory of the World program on May 18, through the meeting of the UNESCO Executive Council.

The capitular minutes, belonging to the Office of the Havana Historian, are gathered in 273 books, amongst them 200 originals, amongst that are drafts, resolutions and agreements made by town hall of the Cuban capital from the sixteenth to the 18th century.

Raquel Martori/EFE


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