December 6, 2013
Author of films on like Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Chile’s Salvador AllendeWednesday, September 11, 2013
Award-winning documentary filmmaker Saul Landau dies
LOS ANGELES — Saul Landau, a prolific, award-winning documentary filmmaker who traveled the world profiling political leaders like Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Chile’s Salvador Allende and used his camera to draw attention to war, poverty and racism, has died. He was 77.
Landau, who had been battling bladder cancer for two years, died Monday night at home in Alameda, California, with his children and grandchildren, said colleague John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies.
The director, producer and writer of more than 40 documentaries had continued to work almost until his death. Landau authored of 14 books. While most covered issues like radical politics, consumer culture and globalization. His documentaries tackled a variety of issues, but each contained one underlying theme: reporting on a subject that was otherwise going largely unnoticed at the time, whether it was American ghetto life, the destruction of an indigenous Mexican culture or the inner workings of the CIA.
His most acclaimed documentary was likely 1979’s Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang, which examined the effects of radiation exposure to people living downwind from Nevada’s above-ground nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s. The film received a George Polk Award for investigative reporting and other honors.
His 1968 documentary Fidel gave US audiences one of their earliest close-ups of the revolutionary leader who installed Communism in Cuba. It came about after a brief meeting with Castro, who told Landau he had seen a news report he had done on Cuba the year before.
In 1971, Landau and fellow filmmaker Haskell Wexler traveled to Chile for a rare US interview with Allende, who had just been elected his country’s president and who would die two years later in a military coup.
A frequent commentator on radio and television in later years, Landau was also a professor emeritus at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he taught history and digital media.