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John Waters Designs Boldly Retro New York Film Festival Poster

Filmmaker and Baltimore’s favorite son John Waters has never had a movie of his shown at the New York Film Festival, but his non-film contribution to this year’s fest might just outshine some of the actual entrants: The Hairspray creator designed the official poster for the 58th annual event. (See it below.)

Paying tribute to Baltimore’s iconic, instantly recognizable Globe Posters that advertised rock & roll and R&B concerts, drag races, circuses, carnivals and other 20th Century entertainments, Waters’ brightly colored poster is, like so many of his films, both affectionate embrace and sidelong satire. An inset photo of Martin Scorsese is captioned “You Know Who HE Is!”, while Agnès Varda is accompanied by “We’ve Got Women Too!”

“Since none of my films were ever chosen to be in the New York Film Festival, I was thrilled to be asked to design this year’s poster,” Waters said in a statement. “I always knew I’d get my ass in there somehow! What better way to show my respect and irreverence for this prestigious event than to bring along Globe Poster, Baltimore’s famous press that promoted the best rock-and-roll shows all over America for decades? Trashy? Classic? Maybe it’s all the same in 2020 when we have to reinvent moviegoing itself.”

This year’s NYFF (September 17 – October 11) will look substantially different than previous editions, with screenings held at drive-in locations or online, with no public events due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Waters’ selection as NYFF poster designer puts him in esteemed company: Others have included Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Julian Schnabel, Cindy Sherman, and last year, Pedro Almodóvar.

“Waters’s design stands in stark contrast to the current realities of city life and moviegoing with a much-needed sense of humor—there will be no waiting in line amongst intellectuals at this year’s unique festival!,” fest organizers said in announcing the poster. (The limited edition posters are available now for pre-order.)

The poster concept was developed prior to the pandemic in collaboration with and inspired by Globe Poster. Today’s announcement describes Waters’ design as “poking fun at the long-held stereotypes, valid critiques, and presumed pomp and circumstance of the annual Lincoln Center event.”

Baltimore’s Globe Poster was founded in 1929 and its work would become ubiquitous in the decades that followed. The NYFF describes the look: “Fluorescent colors, bold wood type, and lettering that shook and shimmied defined Globe’s iconic style, attracting clients from James Brown and Marvin Gaye to Tina Turner and the Beach Boys.”

The Waters poster’s colors will be silkscreen printed, with the black text and images letterpress printed – a combination that was Globe’s signature look. (Globe ceased production in 2010, and the Maryland Institute College of Art subsequently purchased a substantial portion of the press, including wood type, letterpress cuts, and posters.)

The poster isn’t Waters’ only contribution to this year’s festival: The Pink Flamingos director also selected a “shock-epic double feature” to be added to the Revivals section. “John Waters Presents: Art Movie Hell at the Drive-In” Gaspar Noé’s Climax and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s infamous Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. Screening details will be announced soon.


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