"A craft barista advertises his cute coffee cart to the Hollywood film industry while searching for answers about his great-grandfather – an uncredited movie poster artist."
Cameron Kude runs a rather unconventional café. Beardy, burly, brazen, his command of the espresso machine denotes years of specialty coffee experience. “How’d you get so good at that?” one onlooker asks as the man draws a tulip on the surface of a latte with a few effortless flicks. “I’ve spilt lots of milk without crying over it” Cameron quips. As he grinds, tamps, then brews another double shot of espresso -which he tells us was grown in Guatemala- his mechanical movements illicit the feeling of shifting gears in a classic American car. What’s so curious about this café is that it’s built into the back of a vibrant yellow tuk-tuk 3-wheel motor-scooter from India.
Meet Cafablanca, the cutest coffee cart in Los Angeles. A refurbished 1960’s Italian espresso machine with two pull levers is perched on a polished wooden espresso bar, which has entirely replaced the cargo space of this quintessential commuter car usually seen on the erratic roads of Southeast Asia. A marquee drink menu is propped up in the passenger’s seat and Billie Holiday blares from a speaker dangling in front of a prominently displayed Black Lives Matter poster. Mugs with leftist iconography act as pillars in all four corners atop the vintage espresso machine, and a few stacks of small paper cups fill the space in between. They’re upside down, but when Cameron plucks one from the top of the stack and sets it on the drip tray, we see the cursive brushstroke Cafablanca logo in faded red ink and can’t help but picture one of Hollywood’s most classic films.
“My great-grandfather Louis Kude was a movie poster artist, but up until a few years ago I had never heard his name...” Cameron polishes the stainless-steel as he explains, his voice suddenly curt. “There was a lot of dysfunction growing up. That entire branch of my family tree is gone now.”
We see a black and white studio portrait from the 1940’s. With dark curly dark hair and a piercing gaze, the subject in the photograph could be Cameron from a different generation. “When I learned about Louis a few years ago, everything changed.”
Before 1965, major movie studios spared no expense to promote their latest vehicles. America's most gifted advertisers were hired to design lobby cards, one sheets and marquee art that would allure audiences and fill up theaters. They had to sacrifice all ego however, as the studio system machine routinely absorbed credit for the accomplishments of their craftspeople. Simply put: They were not allowed to sign their work. Consequently, many of the artists responsible for Hollywood’s most well known imagery, such as original posters for famous films like Casablanca and Gone with The Wind, remain largely unknown. For the past several years Cameron has been conjuring the spirit of his long-deceased ancestor to shed light on this gross historical slight, which left behind Louis Kude and the remarkable story of his long, fruitful career making movie poster art.
“I started this coffee cart to cater on film sets, but COVID hit right after we launched. Now that things are starting to open up again, I’m circling back to my mission: Use Cafablanca to get past the impenetrable gates of these major movie studios, then find some inside help with linking Louis to his artwork. From what I’ve uncovered there’s a good chance he made a movie poster for Casablanca.” Cameron raises the white paper cup, exposing bold red letters. “The most burning question I have is, did my great-grandfather design this logo?”
Cafablanca follows a craft barista on a fanciful mission to find out if his great-grandfather made a movie poster for Casablanca.
With LA's cutest coffee cart in tow, Cameron Kude targets the Hollywood film industry.
His strategy is two-prong:
1. Get Cafablanca hired to serve delicious craft coffee on film and television sets
2. Gain access to the people and places who can help him find some answers!
Before he launched Cafablanca, Cameron was an amateur barista working at a quaint café in the Pacific Northwest.
One rainy night, he opened a little yellow box and discovered something astonishing:
In near mint condition, a stack of over 100 photographic negatives...
A collection of images from the first twenty Academy Awards ceremonies
Still shots from the Oscar winning films of Hollywood’s Golden age
Up until that point, Cameron had never heard his great-grandfather’s name. Louis, he learned, made movie poster art from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. For the past several years Cameron has spent his free time researching Hollywood history, tracking down long-lost relatives, digging up family secrets, studying screenwriting and documentary filmmaking, contacting historians, producers, and film industry veterans in hopes of finding clues.
While perfecting his coffee craft, Cameron has worked to piece together this unsolved puzzle and an incredible picture has emerged of his great-grandfather’s career:
Louis Kude was a fiercely independent, highly accomplished entrepreneur who defied all odds to achieve prominence in his profession. The more Cameron digs, the more likely it seems that Louis could have made a movie poster for Casablanca. If there's any way to confirm or refute that possibility, Cameron is determined to find it. Cafablanca may just be his ticket
In addition to telling the story of one craftsperson trying to break into Hollywood, while investigating the career of another craftsperson from Hollywood’s distant past, this film dissects the often-overlooked roles of Hollywood craftspeople in general. Cafablanca examines craftspeople's struggles for rights and recognition and connects their unsung contributions to the enduring perception of Hollywood as a beacon of artistry.
Cafablanca identifies and credits some of the unknown craftspeople receiving Oscars in technical categories who appear in the long-lost photo collection of Louis Kude.
So many old Hollywood movie posters have become more popular than the films they were created to advertise, and the craftspeople who created them deserve recognition. Growing up, there was a framed puzzle hanging up on my family's wall – the movie poster for Gone with The Wind. It was a wedding gift to my parents, whose dramatic and tumultuous marriage resulted in us moving all the time. Both the framed movie poster and the constant moving carried over into my adulthood, and shortly after I discovered that my great-grandfather made movie posters, the Gone with The Wind puzzle fell to the floor and broke into a jumble of pieces.
It astonished me that this puzzle I spent so much time looking at and lugging around had never been glazed or glued together. That it stayed completely intact for so many decades was nothing short of a miracle! I am making this movie to expose the personal grit, but also the wonder and magic behind these iconic images that will forever invoke the grandest heights of Hollywood splendor
Cafablanca needs your support to get this documentary rolling!
We are seeking interviews from studio archivists, Hollywood historians, art historians, film industry veterans, art department retirees, tax records analysts, movie poster collectors, and so forth. Please reach out if you have any resources, talents, knowledge, or connections to contribute in the making of this movie.
Cafablanca is fundraising to cover expenses while we are in production, as well as assist us with paying for travel, crew, equipment, and post-production. Your contributions will also keep us well stocked with coffee so we can stage Cafablanca for promotional pop-ups and use our coffee cart as a backdrop for local interviews, keeping our subjects happy, chatty and hyped!
Contact Cafablanca to discuss investment and collaboration opportunities.