The posters in Soy Cuba by Carole Goodman and Claudio Sotolongo (Trilce Ediciones) are so conceptually stunning it is hard to believe they are advertising films. Movie posters are typically mired in clichéd imagery that unimaginative marketers believe will pique an audience’s interest. These Cuban film posters could never have been market tested or run through the typical approval wringer. If so, they would never look like this. Their very existence raises the question: Why are these Cuban posters so visually inventive? And perhaps a more perplexing question: Why have they been hidden away in the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry for so long?
Cuban political posters produced by the Organization of Solidarity of the People of Asia, Africa & Latin America (Ospaaal) have been widely exhibited and documented, but this extensive body of work has been kept virtually secret until Carole Goodman uncovered them. In the history of popular art, these posters are comparable to any major archeological find, and as momentous to the legacy of graphic design as the rediscovery in the 1970s of twenties-era Russian Constructivist film posters.
What makes them worthy of such status (and awe) is less that they transcend the marketing conventions of the motion picture industry – which demands star-studded imagery and bloated typography. Even more essential from a socio-historical point of view is that these posters, created after the Cuban revolution in 1959, exhibit a unique graphic language that has roots in then-contemporary Europe, but ultimately developed a distinct graphic accent, which could for now be called a “Revolutionary Cuban Style.” And what a free style it is.