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Entries tagged "saul landau"

Saul Landau, Presente!

September 13, 2013 ·

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.

Saul Landau 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 celebrationIf you can join us, please RSVP

IPS Tributes

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.
Excerpt:
"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
Excerpt:
…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

Mainstream Media

Saul Landau, Maker of Films with Leftist Edge, Dies at 77New York Times obituary by Douglas Martin
Excerpt:
"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 77Washington Post obituary by Matt Schudel
Excerpt:
"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 77Los Angeles Times obituary by Daniel Miller
Excerpt:
"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 – diesSan Francisco Chronicle obituary by Sam Whiting
Excerpt:
"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 ObserverUSA Today, the Chicago Sun-Times, and dozens of other newspapers.
Excerpt
"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.
Excerpt:
Novelist Gore Vidal once quipped that the prolific Landau "is a man I love to steal ideas from."

Progressive Media

This Week in 'Nation' History: Saul Landau's Investigations of US Ties to the Pinochet Regime, The Nation essay by Katrina vanden Heuvel
Excerpt:
"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
Excerpt:
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
Excerpt:
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
Excerpt:
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 
Excerpt:
"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
Excerpt
"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
Excerpt:
"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
Excerpt:
"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.

My Socrates Wore a Guayabera

September 13, 2013 ·

Cross-posted from CounterPunch with permission.
Read the Institute's tribute to Saul Landau.
IPS will celebrate the life of Saul Landau in Washington, DC on October 12. If you can join us, please RSVP

Saul LandauBy Divine Intervention, Saul Landau entered my life 12 years ago and taught me how to write, film, and live with dignity.

We instantly bonded over having fathers from the “old country” — his father, from Ukraine, mine, from Syria — and being Semites with prominent noses. We communicated by exchanging stories and news articles, watching and dissecting films, exploring puns, and testing one another’s tolerance for salacious humor (his was particularly impressive).

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!”

I met Saul just after finishing my freshman year at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he taught courses on Latin America, history, and digital media. A wide-eyed 19-year-old at the time, the formation of my political consciousness had coincided with the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000. From what I could comprehend, the continued occupation of Palestinian territory seemed “wrong” and contrary to international law, but I lacked the language, tools, and platform to thoughtfully explain why.

In August 2001, I walked into Saul’s office. For the next three years, it became my intellectual equivalent of Warhol’s Factory, without the Velvet Underground, drugs, hangers-on, and troubled pseudo-starlets, but where film scripts, detective novels, and muckraking commentaries percolated at a fiendish pace. His friends would often stop by, including Gore Vidal, Alexander Cockburn, and Arianna Huffington, before giving campus-wide talks organized by Saul.

“So, are you interested in making movies and learning how to play a part in your history?” he asked me nonchalantly, during my research assistant job interview.

“Sure!” I replied, captivated by both his lofty proposition and his eyes that narrated more riveting stories than Scheherazade, radiating whimsy, strength, and unabashed soul.

“Watch these films that I made with Castro [“Fidel,” 1968; “Cuba and Fidel,” 1974; “The Uncompromising Revolution,” 1988] and Allende [“Que Hacer?” and “Conversation with Allende,” 1971] and read some of my books [The Dangerous Doctrine;Guerrilla Wars of Central AmericaRed Hot Radio]. If you’re interested in working with me after that, let me know next week.”

And that began my real political education, outside the stifling halls of academia, thanks to the ever generous, ever humble, Saul. On my first day at work, I prepared to bombard him with questions about Cuba, given his history of making six films there. Why did the 1959 Cuban Revolution succeed? Is revolution in the 21st Century still possible? What crossed your mind as you were sitting next to Fidel, filming him in his Jeep? And, what compelled you to show footage of him striking out while playing baseball, alongside the extreme close-up shots of dirt in his fingernails?

He answered these questions throughout our relationship. But on this particular day, September 11, 2001, Cuba took a back seat to the acts of terrorism against the United States. No sooner had Saul arrived to the office that we had to depart for the day, as the state-university closed early in the aftermath of the events. Nonetheless, he still managed to instill the most valuable lesson of my life—in a parking lot, no less.

As the hours passed and it became clear that Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and those who looked “suspicious” would face backlash, for no other reason than their identity, Saul uttered these immortal words as I entered my car: “Do not be afraid. You have a duty to speak out.” He knew I was an Arab. And a Muslim. But for him, righting wrongs, regardless of where they occurred, always trumped narrow identity politics. How else would a boy from the Bronx go on to make documentaries exposing hypocrisy, torture, militarism, and the consequences of neoliberalism in Cuba, Brazil, Iraq, and Mexico, respectively?

It did not matter that I had never before penned an article, op-ed, or letter-to-the-editor. Or, that I feared public speaking. At a moment when the Bush administration launched its wide-reaching assault on civil liberties in the U.S. and its war on Afghanistan, my guayabera-wearing Socrates, whose probing questions always revealed higher truths about power and injustice, empowered me to play a role (however modest) in my history.

Saul gave me my radio debut on Pacifica Network News a few days after 9/11, challenging me to write a commentary from my community’s perspective. With his literary scalpel, he rearranged my sentences, deleted extraneous words, and converted the passive into the active voice. By the end of it, my first draft hemorrhaged from his edits. He winked, delivering another Saulism that still haunts me: “Never fall in love with your own work.”

As a student of history, who studied with William Appleman Williams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Saul implored me to look beyond the accepted version of news events, especially when broadcast by the corporate media. He reminded me of that other 9/11 in Chile, when General Augusto Pinochet, backed by the U.S., overthrew the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973. That “altered the destiny of the Chilean people,” he would say, pointing to the ensuing reign of terror targeting his own friends, like Orlando Letelier, the Defense Minister under Allende who was arrested and imprisoned on Dawson Island following the coup, and later assassinated by agents of the Chilean secret police in Washington D.C. on September 21, 1976.

Three months after 9/11, Saul wrote a ZNet commentary called “The Logic of Our Time,” where he questioned the new axioms offered by the Bush administration justifying a military response to terrorism. His still relevant conclusion merits repeating:

I plan to persuade my university colleagues to begin offering courses in the new logic so that students can compare the words officials use against what they see, hear and read. If anyone doubts the veracity of our leaders, recall Richard Pryor’s wife when she discovers him in bed naked with a naked woman.

“Hey, sugar, it’s not what you think,” says Pryor.

“What do you mean? Are you nuts? I’m seeing this scene with my own eyes,” she says.

“Hey, honey,” says Pryor, “who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”

On the 12th anniversary of 9/11, and in the midst of President Barack Obama’s momentary pushback on bombing Syria, I miss my mentor and friend’s shrewd analysis and penetrating wit more than ever. As I walked around the humid streets of D.C. last night, where he called home for over 20 years before moving to California, I felt limbless without my guayabera-wearing Socrates. How would he respond to Obama’s Syria’s remarks? What will he write his next commentary on? And, when will he release his next film?

I could barely make out the stars the night after Saul died, so instead I turned to the streetlights. In them, I saw the perpetual gleam in his eyes, illuminating the far corners of the Earth, however imperfect, disheveled, disillusioned. In the morning, the birds on my windowsill chirped in my ears, reminding me just how privileged I was to work with and learn from the best. I treasure every article we wrote together, including our film reviews and Syria pieces for CounterPunch. I traveled to Syria for the first time with my mentor just after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, allowing me to simultaneously discover my roots and the art of filmmaking. All roads lead to Damascus — and Saul.

“In times of need the living need a poem,” he once wrote.

I call mine Saul Landau.

Farrah Hassen, a Syrian-American writer and filmmaker, was the associate producer of the 2004 film, “Syria: Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” directed by Saul Landau. She is currently a first-year law student at Howard University in Washington DC. For two years, she served as the Carol Jean and Edward F. Newman Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and she made several short films featuring Landau that the Institute will screen at its upcoming 50th anniversary celebration.


More Than a Sonnet for Saul Landau

September 10, 2013 ·

Saul LandauTonight I am reading Neruda's "Ode To An Aged Poet"
and thinking about where words come from and where they go.
You always enter a room with a joke and now I turn around
and see laughter sitting in the corner waiting for the punch line.
You know sickness isn't funny but then I know the next thing
you'll say is — "How are you doing Comrade Miller?"

Saul, can you tell me why everything around you plays catch
with the letter C?  Cuba, Castro, Chile, Cinema and now (c)ancer.
Only you could have written something like this. 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.
Yes — another C. How are you doing Comrade Landau?
Is that a Camera in your hands?  Tell me about the morning,
the light, the sweet scent of Peace. Teach me to remember

— all the days of our love.

 — E. Ethelbert Miller, July 5, 2013

A Convenient Refuge: Review of "Will The Real Terrorist Please Stand Up"

April 29, 2011 ·

As the curious life and career of Luis Posada Carriles illustrates, justice is wielded when it is convenient for the institutions tasked with enforcing it. The 83-year-old has had a horrifyingly prolific career, including participating in the Bay of Pigs invasion, blowing up Cubana Flight 455 and its 73 passengers, and planting a series of bombs in Havana hotels that killed one and injured 11. He has dodged justice numerous times, always slipping by on his CIA connections.

Contrary to the stern declaration by George W. Bush that the United States would "make no Poster of Landau's film, distinction between terrorists and the nations that harbor them – and hold both to account," Carriles has found sanctuary in this country. Saul Landau’s new film “Will the Real Terrorists Please Stand Up?” explores the sordid history of U.S. support for violent counter-revolutionaries and regime change in Cuba, explaining why someone like Carriles could end up inside the United States.

Landau grabs some startlingly candid interviews with the major players in the bloody drama. What emerges is a portrait of men who are accustomed to a culture of total impunity and who operate solely through the application and threatened application of violence.

A perfect example of these characters is Orlando Bosch a former CIA backed operative and head of Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations. In an interview, Bosch – described by the FBI as an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization – dismisses his killing of innocent civilians as “unfortunate”. Declassified documents in 2005 show Bosch likely collaborated with Carriles to carry out the airline bombing. Landau turns the camera on Carriles, showing him strutting through the Cuban exile community in Miami, treated like a hero and grinning from ear to ear.

Throughout, Landau keeps things interesting and quickly paced. He narrates, relating how his personal history intersects with the history of Cuba (the set of his film Fidel was even bombed by members of a terrorist group). It helps to give the documentary structure and a relatable point of view. There is a large cast of characters, but effective titles help to keep everyone identifiable.

By the time the Cuban Five come into play, Landau has made the case that these men were responding to a legitimate threat coming from the exile community in Miami. Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up? is an effective and at times chilling portrait of one of the last Cold War conflicts still playing out. 

Zach Kreinik is an intern at the Institute for Policy Studies and an undergraduate student at Evergreen College.