Saul Landau, who died September 9, 2013 at age 77, toiled for years to change the national conversation on everything from the Cuban embargo to climate change. Saul also had a knack for turning newfound acquaintances into soulmates that shines through the many tributes and obituaries pooled here to share with people who either had the good fortune to know him and those who are just now discovering his legacy and want to learn more. These essays and articles serve as a testament to his brilliance, perseverance, and boundless generosity.
In addition to his achievements as a writer of prose and poetry, filmmaker, radio show host, connoisseur of odd food, professor, tireless traveler, devoted family man, and a master of off-color jokes, Saul was a longtime Institute for Policy Studies fellow and trustee. IPS will commemorate his life in Washington, DC, on October 12 as part of our 50th anniversary celebration. If you can join us, please RSVP.
The Institute for Policy Studies Mourns the Loss of Filmmaker and Author Saul Landau, tribute by the IPS staff. We encourage Saul’s many friends and admirers to make their comments on our website.
“Saul’s commitments were forged of steel,” said Isabel Letelier, the widow of Orlando Letelier and a former IPS staff member. “He was an impeccable and exemplary revolutionary.”
More Than a Sonnet for Saul Landau, poem posted on the IPS website by IPS Board Chair Ethelbert Miller
…So tell me
another joke. I want to laugh long into the night. I want our
friendship to wait for the stars to come down and kiss California
Saul Landau, Maker of Films with Leftist Edge, Dies at 77, New York Times obituary by Douglas Martin
“You want to do what you can while you’re on this earth,” Mr. Landau said in 2006. “Otherwise the alternative is to go shopping.”
Activist and filmmaker Saul Landau dies at 77, Washington Post obituary by Matt Schudel
“Since the late 1960s, Mr. Landau’s family said, his provocative films and political statements led to frequent death threats, particularly while he was investigating the murders of (Orlando) Letelier and (Ronni Karpen) Moffitt. “I’m sure he must have been terrified at times,” Cavanagh said, “but he never showed it.”
‘Fidel’ filmmaker Saul Landau dies at 77, Los Angeles Times obituary by Daniel Miller
“I came out of Madison with a passion for social justice and the idea that you only get one shot at participating in the history of the world and that you have to make the most of it,” Landau told Madison’s Capital Times in 2006, the year he donated his papers to his alma mater.
Saul Landau – documentary filmmaker – dies, San Francisco Chronicle obituary by Sam Whiting
“He would not suffer pompous statements by politicians from either the right or the left,” Rep. George Miller said. “He was a constant battler for human rights, whether they were being crushed by American involvement in Latin America or by dictators. To him that was the battle.”
Documentary Filmmaker Saul Landau Dies, AP obituary by John Rogers, which appeared in the Charlotte Observer, USA Today, the Chicago Sun-Times, and dozens of other newspapers.
“He knew he’d made a contribution and he was happy about that, he was happy, but he wanted to talk about how to make the world a better place,” (IPS Director John) Cavanagh said Tuesday, recalling an hours-long discussion the two had earlier this year. “When we got into that is when he really got animated and full of life, it was fascinating to see.”
American documentary filmmaker Saul Landau dead at age 77, Reuters obituary by Eric Kelsey.
Novelist Gore Vidal once quipped that the prolific Landau “is a man I love to steal ideas from.”
This Week in ‘Nation’ History: Saul Landau’s Investigations of US Ties to the Pinochet Regime, The Nation essay by Katrina vanden Heuvel
“It was The Nation’s honor to publish (Saul Landau’s) work at such an early and definitive moment in his career, when he sought to uncover who was responsible for the brutal and untimely death of his dear and principled friend” (Orlando Letelier).
Remembering Saul Landau, a tribute by Nation intern Andrés S. Pertierra
Saul awakened my political consciousness. He called us all to thought, gave an example to emulate in his fights for justice and left his mark forever. He survives through us in the decisions we make. We’ll try and not let him down.
My Socrates Wore a Guayabera, in CounterPunch, essay by Farrah Hassen
Regardless of the time of day, or time zone, he delivered his pearls of wisdom in pairs: “Don’t be a victim,” followed by, “Unless you believe in reincarnation, you only have one shot at life.” Unrelenting wit, even at bleak moments, encapsulated his pearls: “If you ask the Rabbi, nothing’s kosher.” And sadly, in more recent months, “Cancer schmancer, as long as you have your health!”
Also read this shorter version, at OtherWords.org
The Authentic Landau, in CounterPunch, by Jeffrey St. Clair
Last year, our daughter was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma. Saul, who lived across the San Francisco Bay in Alameda, said, “Tell Zen to call me. I know what it’s like. I can talk her through it.” And so he did. Saul helped take much of the fear out of facing the disease. He searched for doctors, advised us on how to handle the insurance companies, talked about diet after treatments and recommended an excellent acupuncturist. He called every week to ask how Zen was doing. He never forgot, even as his own health began to deteriorate. That’s the kind of friendship that you can’t fake…or replace.
Travels With Saul Landau, in CounterPunch, by former Senator James Abourezk
“We traveled together to Cuba where Saul introduced me to Fidel Castro; we went to Wounded Knee together after the militant Indian takeover and where Saul made a film centered on the Indian Committee hearings I held to document the AIM takeover of Wounded Knee. In 2003, he went to Syria without me, but my Syrian wife, Sanaa, was there visiting her family at the time, so he drafted her as his guide and narrator as he filmed around Syria”
Documentary Filmmaker and Activist Saul Landau Dead at 77, Common Dreams obituary by Jon Queally
“He stood up to dictators, right-wing Cuban assassins, pompous politicians, and critics from both the left and the right,” said IPS Director John Cavanagh. “When he believed in something, nobody could make him back down. Those who tried would typically find themselves on the receiving end of a withering but humorous insult.”
Saul Landau, American leftist, 1936 – 2013, OpenDemocracy, tribute by Anthony Barnett
“His smile was unforgettable. It could be mistaken as cynical. It was the opposite: part skeptical, part an impish demand to make trouble if you can: an encouragement laced with practical intelligence. Many of us have been helped and supported by him often in ways we did not fully realize until later. ‘Make it happen and stay cool’ was his adage and he did both.”
Journalist & Filmmaker Saul Landau, 77, Dies; Chronicled Cuban Revolution for Decades, Democracy Now! Obituary
“What did Cuba do to us?,” Landau asks. “Well, the answer, I think, is that they were disobedient, in our hemisphere. And they did not ask permission to take away property. They took it away. They nationalized property. And the United States…has never forgiven them.”
Additional reports and essays on Saul’s life and death appeared around the world in the UK, Canadian, Indian, Pakistani Argentine, Costa Rican, Japanese, Cuban media.
Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. Read Saul Landau’s wide-ranging OtherWords op-eds.