The Story of Making Back from Nicaragua
In October, 1983, my daughter Valerie Landau and I decided to make “Back from Nicaragua” upon hearing the news of the US invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Granada. It filled us with fear for the fate of the nearby revolutionary Nicaragua, where the Sandinista revolution had triumphed in 1979. Upon her college graduation that same year, Valerie had gone off to Nicaragua to join the newly formed youth literacy brigades to teach the rural population to read and write. When she returned a few years later, we teamed up to make a mainstream video that could be shown nationally to bring understanding and support peace in Central America. We had no money. Valerie was a single mom with a baby and I was a poet with a part time job teaching job. What to do?
I got Pete Seeger’s phone number and asked him and his wife Yoshi if he would participate in our film for which we had no script, equipment crew or money yet. Wonderful dreamer that he is, he said “Yes.” Mainly because my son, Greg Landau, who also had gone to Nicaragua to support the Sandinistas and who is a musician, had served as Pete’s translator and accompanist for his music tour of Nicaragua.
I found the camera person when, as an activist, I joined a small Council of Churches delegation that was going downtown to visit the Chilean Consulate to protest the cruelties of the Pinochet coup against the Chilean poor. The consulate staff panicked at the news of our arrival and shut off the lights and locked up. When we arrived upstairs at their door, we found a lone cameraman, Julio Moline, from a local public TV station in San Jose.
Well, as one thing leads to the next, as we stood in the darkened hallway I told Julio about our Nicaragua Film project. How it would cover the Nicaraguan musical tours of US artists like Pete Seeger, Holly Near, Joan Baez, and the Looters. Right there and then, Julio agreed to be the cameraman and to discuss it with his station to see if they would support the project.
Well, as one thing tends to lead to another, it did and we did. I contacted the “talent” and Valerie and Julio did the day to day editing and production work. We filmed Pete Seeger in our SF Living room and my friend and neighbor Judith Knoop brought over freshly squeezed orange juice to keep Pete going through the long shoot. We used his interview for the film opening and closing. Holly Near invited us to her apartment. Joan Baez gave us permission by phone to use her previously recorded materials. The Looters and the Reverend Don Chase were glad to participate.
American friends, working in Nicaragua, like Nora Roman, Daniel del Solar and my son Greg Landau, helped us to obtain the wonderful footage from the Sandinista TV station. So here are the sights and sounds from beautiful volcanic, revolutionary Nicaragua – and the music of some of our finest musical artists of the time.
Watch the video and enjoy!