Festival celebrates political filmmakers

February 8, 2005 By Gwen Evans

For filmmaker Saul Landau, who has interviewed the likes of Fidel Castro and Zapatista leaders in Chiapas, Mexico, the recent popularity of political documentaries must give him cheer. With more than 40 films to his credit, he has been putting a focus on human rights and social and political issues long before “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Bowling for Columbine” and “The Fog of War” took the spotlight.

Landau’s films will be featured at the Sixth Annual CineFest Film Festival Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 24-26. “The Landau Legacy with Special Guest Haskell Wexler: Films from the Americas and Beyond,” is a three-day extravaganza of documentary and politically charged filmmaking, which will take place on campus and in the Madison community. CineFest is one of the premiere Latino film festivals in the United States. This year’s event features the work of three internationally renowned filmmakers who have focused their attention on themes related to Latin America.

Photo of Saul Landau

Saul Landau

Photo of Greg Landau

Greg Landau

CineFest organizer William Ney, assistant director of the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies (LACIS) program, which sponsors CineFest, believes the festival will be popular with both the campus and Madison communities. And for Landau, a UW–Madison graduate, the festival will be a homecoming of sorts.

“This year’s CineFest promises to be an extraordinary event, and we are pleased to welcome Landau back to Madison and Wexler to our campus and community for the first time,” says Ney.

All events are free and open to the public, except for the “Evening of Solidarity” benefit at the Barrymore Theater. Adult admission to that event is $10; student admission is $5. Admission to all other film screenings is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Landau’s films have garnered numerous awards, including the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award, the George Polk Award for Investigative Reporting and the First Amendment Award, as well as an Emmy.

In addition to making films, Landau is an internationally known scholar, author and commentator, and is the director of Digital Media Programs at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Calif. He received an Edgar Allen Poe Award for his book “Assassination on Embassy Row,” a report on the 1976 murders of Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his colleague, Ronni Moffitt.

Joining Landau at CineFest is Haskell Wexler, one of the most important cinematographers working in film today. Some of his better-known films include “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Coming Home,” “Bound for Glory” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” He received five Academy Award nominations and earned two Oscars for best cinematography. Wexler is the first cinematographer in more than 35 years to receive a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Like Landau, Wexler produces documentaries that concentrate on politics and human rights. Landau and Wexler worked together on “Report on Torture.” Made in 1971, it examines methods of torture inflicted upon political prisoners by Brazil’s military police.

Also participating in CineFest is Greg Landau, Saul Landau’s son. Greg Landau is an award-winning music video producer and educator, a two-time Grammy nominee and a producer of more than 30 CDs, film soundtracks and videos. For the last 20 years, he also has made documentaries in Latin America with his father and Wexler. His “Rock Down Central America” is a music documentary that follows a Nicaraguan reggae band back to its hometown during the 1988 Sandinista revolution.

CineFest is co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, the Division of Continuing Studies, the Department of Communication Arts, The Harvey Goldberg Center and the Global Studies program at UW–Madison, and the Capital Times newspaper and WORT radio. Promotional support is provided by the Wisconsin Film Festival, the Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Program, the WUD Film Committee and the Department of History at UW–Madison, and the Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua, the Havens Center, the Wisconsin Film Office, the Madison Arcatao Sister City Association, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Association, Community Axtion on Latin America and the Progressive magazine.

For more information on CineFest, visit http://www.cinefest.wisc.edu or contact Ney at 262-2811.

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