From Hollywood to Havana: Five Decades of Cuban Posters Promoting U.S. Films

Pasadena Museum of California Art

August 20, 2017–January 7, 2018

The Exhibit

Life in Cuba changed dramatically on January 1, 1959, when the guerrilla forces led by Fidel Castro overthrew the United States-supported dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. However, Cubans’ love for movies remained unchanged. Less than three months after coming to power, the Cuban government formed the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC), or Cuban Film Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, to facilitate film production, promotion, and distribution.

Prior to ICAIC, Cubans produced very few films, and most movies shown in Cuba were imported from the United States, Europe, Mexico, and Argentina. Cinema was a powerful and effective way of reaching the entire population, and the Revolutionary government began producing documentaries to advance their efforts for better healthcare, literacy, and agrarian reform.

In the sixty years following Cuba’s independence from Spain, U.S. business interests dominated Cuban life. When Fidel Castro came to power, the U.S. government actively pursued “regime change” and worked against the Revolution in many ways, including instituting an economic embargo. In spite of el bloqueo, a trade embargo that has been in place since 1960, Cubans continue to enjoy Hollywood films, though no one will discuss how they’ve managed to import them.

Cubans created screenprints to promote the films they showed, including movies from the United States, but the Cuban posters looked nothing like their Hollywood counterparts. Rather than using a standard design featuring the movies’ stars, the ICAIC posters use symbols, design, and color to interpret the films.

Hollywood in Havana features Cuban silkscreens promoting Hollywood films and Cuban films about the United States. All were produced by ICAIC over a fifty-year period. They publicize a surprising variety of movies from classics to cult films, musical comedies to horror, and everything in between. With a focus on design, style, craft, and the themes of the films, these Cuban posters are in striking contrast to the Hollywood film posters that are ubiquitous in billboards and signs across Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world.

The Posters
Credits: Story

Claudio Sotolongo, "Cabaret," 2009. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

René Azcuy, "El Chicuelo/The Kid," 1975. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Raúl Valdes (Raupa), "El Resplandor/The Shining," 2009. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Raúl Valdés (Raupa), "El Silencio De Los Corderos/Silence of the Lambs," 2009. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Antonio Pérez (Ñiko), "Isadora," 1979. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Giselle Monzón, "La Soga/Rope," 2009. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

René Azcuy, "Marilyn Monroe In Memoriam," circa 1976. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Antonio Reboiro, "Moby Dick," 1968. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Eduardo Muñoz Bachs, "Por Primera Vez/For the First Time," 1968.
Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

René Azcuy, "¿Que Paso Con Baby Jane?/Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?," 1976. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Julio Eloy Mesa, "Retrospectiva De La Cinematografia Chicana/Retrospective of Chicano Cinematography", 1979. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Lisandro Trepeu, "Singin’ in the Rain," 2009. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Claudio Sotolongo, "Tiempos Modernos/Modern Times," 2009. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Antonio Pérez (Ñiko), "Trapecio/Trapeze," 1969. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Eduardo Muñoz Bachs, "Tres En Un Sofá/Three on a Couch," 1974. Silkscreen, 29 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Credits: All media
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