Born: January 15, 1936; Died: September 9, 2013.
Saul Landau, who has died aged 77, was an award-winning documentary filmmaker who profiled political leaders such as Fidel Castro of Cuba and Chile's Salvador Allende. His 1968 documentary Fidel gave the world one of the earliest close-ups of the revolutionary leader who installed Communism in Cuba, but his most acclaimed documentary was probably 1979's Paul Jacobs And The Nuclear Gang, which examined the effects of radiation exposure on people living downwind from Nevada's above-ground nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s.
The director, producer and writer of more than 40 documentaries had continued to work almost until his death. He regularly submitted essays to the Huffington Post and had been working on a documentary on homophobia in Cuba.
Landau was also the author of 14 books. While most covered issues like radical politics, consumer culture and globalisation, one of them, My Dad Was Not Hamlet, was a collection of poetry.
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.
One of the documentaries Landau said he was most proud of was The Sixth Sun: Mayan Uprising In Chiapas, which looked at the 1994 rebellion by the impoverished indigenous people of southern Mexico. Landau travelled to Chiapas to interview, among others, the masked revolutionary leader known as Subcommandante Marcos.
The Fidel documentary 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.
"He said he liked the film very much and asked me what my next film was going to be," Landau recalled. "I said, 'I'd like to do one on you.'"
In 1971 Landau and fellow filmmaker Haskell Wexler travelled 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.
Landau was born in the Bronx and graduated with a history degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Although he made more than 36 films, he said he never set out to be a filmmaker. "I didn't set out to be anything," he said. "I just fell into it."
After moving to San Francisco, he was at various times a film distributor, author, playwright and member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Two of his earliest books, The New Radicals and To Serve The Devil, both co-written with Jacobs, led to his being approached by a San Francisco public television station that wanted a report on ghetto conditions in Oakland. The result was his first documentary, 1966's Losing Just The Same.
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.
He is survived by his wife and five children.
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