SALVADOR SAMMARITANO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sammaritano died, who was a pioneer of the Cine-club

  • (by Marcelo Zapata, published at Ambito Financiero newspaper) 

  At his 78 years old died the journalist, cinema critic and founder of the cineclubism in the country Salvador Sammaritano, to whom several generations of moviegoers owe their first approachment to the best expressions of the art cinema through the legendary Cine Club Nucleo, that was founded in 1953 (there were played the first films by Ingmar Bergman in the country), and the activities of which are continued to date.


  Sometime ago the humorist Ferro, who was the creator of the diver Chapaleo, commented: "There are some people who put their feet so that you fall down. I know a man who, as soon as he meets you, puts a staircase so that you can go up. His name is Salvador Sammaritano". Happy, always ready with comic anecdotes and jokes not ever possible to say again, the "Nigro" Sammaritano was a school teacher when he was young and, on above all, a friend, in the most and "porteño" sense of the word.

  In this way he left happy memories in the newspaper offices, inns close to the offices, theatres, distributors and the diverse consecutive and varied theatres where he led the cineclub, when in the hard times of censorship he managed to show, even facing personal risks, some titles forbidden by the Censorship Board. 

  In 1983, with the return of democracy, he extended through ATC television, his work of diffusion in the program "Cine Club", which he managed during many years.  He was the head of numerous radio programs, he was the founder of "Time of Movies" magazine (1960-1968) and he was director of the collection "Cinema Essay" (1955-1970).  As manager of April editions, he was the privileged writer of almost all of issues of that editor up to 1983.

  He also left his memories in the INCAA offices, where he reached the position of subdirector during the Antonio Ottone management and, later, director of the cinema school, Enerc, where his remainings were hold a wake over yesterday night.

  He attended to uncountable international film festivals as president of the Argentine delegates; once, the interventor at the Institute wished to attend the Moscow Film Festival and told him "Please introduce me to them because I do not know anybody".  The "Nigro", then, introduced him to Luis Bardem, communist director, but both of them had something in common they both loved the tango.  "And that night they were embraced one to each other, singing tangos at the Red Square", Sammaritano remembered smiling sometime later.  He also enjoyed playing a role at cinema: firstly, a short scene in "Captive Paula", and during the ´80 when Eliseo Subiela convoked him to a short role at "The dark side of heart". He was a melomaniac, he was owner of an enormous record and videos library, he used to visit with some of his friends some of the best stores of import CDs and DVDs and, sometimes, he enjoyed hiding in his pockets when he returned home, the excesive purchases he made so that he would not be considered an extravagant.

He had only one defect: he never wanted to disturb. Not to disturb his family, he overlooked more time than it was convenient a pain that later did not have treatment.  His son Alejandro and his wife, Pirucha, follow him managing the Cinema Club, that once was exactly defined by his friend Roland: "Nucleo: meeting of believers around a samaritan". 
 

***

The Nigro was great.

By José Pablo Feinmann

(Published at Page 12 newspaper)

  Sammaritano chose the way of the erudit, not of the "Creator". "Creator" is anybody. That serves to the ego, to disdain, to vanaglory. Erudits are only a few.  The Nigro Sammaritano could have shooted. He could have written. He could have made music. (Above all, do not surprise, music.) But he felt something that today is almost inexistent: he had self-criticism. He said: "I see a Bergman picture or one of Ford or one of Antonioni, and I say to myself ¿what am I going to film for?  If I could be close to what those guys did, if I could add anything, even if it could be a little thing, I would make films. If not, no.  With the desire it is not enough. You have talent or you do not have it. And if you do not have it, it is good to know it soon and not to take the others time."

  The Nigro knew a lot about many things.  He admired the great people so much that he regarded it more important to indulge his life to make known their works than to make his owns.  Men such as the Nigro, who take such a decision, are not only creators in their way, but wise men. He made all that he made. He founded the Nucleo Cinema Club in 1954; he was 24 years old. Later he published a magazine that today is mithical, Time of Movies. 

  He argued with some others who made another one that was issued during past years. He told them: "Tiempo de cine had to close due to lack of money. You will close due to excess of arrogance." He was professor in Universities abroad. He travelled through Cuba, through Mexico. He travelled through Europe a lot.  He had been part of the cinema school of the littoral area, that one founded by Fernando Birri, a school that made history, as men of high ierarchy graduated there.  When during the menemist time, the Institute was managed by Antonio Ottone, the Nigro was named assistant director. It was a guarantee that he were there. All of us supported him. It lasted a short time. He was dismissed.

  We had a dinner as amends for that. The Nigro had a good humor that made him safe of anything; of the ridicule and of that exasperating way of ridicule that is solemnity.  The amend dinner was a frolic one. We ate, we drunk, we made jokes. The Nigro was a terrific and a passionate jokes teller. Suddenly, somebody had to talk. The speech of the circumstance had to be made. That it was wrong that the Nigro had been dismissed, had to be stated, that he was dismissed because he was honest, because the menemism was the superproduction in Cinemascope, stereophonic sound, cast of stars and the infinite of the corruption. It is Blown with the wind taken to the indesctrible art of robbery. Anybody could have said that, the good wine eases up any tongue. I talked, maybe because I do not need any wine to start talking. It occurred to me to say (referring to the Nigro): "From the place where the Nigro is kicked off. the cinema is kicked off". Far from there, the Nigro said: "Shut up, "che". At present they are shooting some extremely good pictures in Holland, in New York and even in Madrid, and I am here, wasting my time with you."         

  He was a "radical" and admired the soviet revolutionaries. This takes me to the Nigro´s side less known, but the deeper because it is related to the art that he loved most, and he loved the cinema as only a few loved it. But the Nigro was an eminet musicologist. He knew about music more than, in example, the completely forgotten at present and outstanding vain Jorge D´Urbano, who put his mouth as a chicken ass to say "Bruckner".  Or "Beethoffen", that was the way he pronounced the name of the Great Deaf. A guy who said about Gershwin: "A brillant music, but external", that way, something horrible. The Nigro loved all music. The Nigro also loved -as I stated- the soviet revolutionaries. I think that he was much of a non-peronist man, but we never talked about that, ¡there was so much to talk! Once he told me,"Daddy Stalin was not wrong with Shostakovich. Even with his nose Dimitri was charged too much to the atone side. With Lady Macbeth from the district of Mtsensk he insisted.  There, Daddy Stalin told him, "Stop Dimitri. Don´t bother with the atonalism.   

  The music is for the people". Thanks to that we have the 15 marvellous symphonies by Shostakovich. At present, that the symphonic orchestras are powerful than ever, that sound phantastically, ¿what would they play instead? They have Shostkovich." "Among the 15 which do you like best?" He thinks. He says: "All are pretty". He could not choose. He liked them so much, that there was not one that he could privilege among the others. If you went to his house he covered you with music. He also thought that you were so erudit as he was."What will we listen? - he asked - ¡I am not going to play the Ravel concert!" To the Nigro, the Ravel concert was a breeze, something you already knew by heart. Then he played a jewel like the Concert to end with all concerts.

  And he enjoyed as a child. It is a concert that mixed the Rachmaninoff´s, the Tchaikovsky´s, the Grieg´s, some by Beethoven and the Rhapsody in Blue. The result was hilarious. "Did you like it? Did you like it?", he asked with that art for stuttering he used to demonstrate. He was not with Schoenberg, it is true. He thought that he had taken a wrong way. But there was no play by the dissonant Arnold that he would not have, that he would not know, that he would not have heard a lot of times. "However, he has very good things. Listen, listen to this", he said, "Gershwin and Schoenberg play tennis together -I dare say-. Arnold orchestrated the second prelude of George. They were friends and the critics believe that they are antithetical. " And, he with the certainty that made me full of happines:" And what do you want? If Gershwin was God..." Once he came to my home. I had the piano yet and I used to play it. Now I have given it as a present, but that does not matter. I was going on something similar to a prelude. (As I said: anybody can do anything. Above all, wrong.) "Listen, Nigro. Listen".

  (As I said: Anybody can do anything. Above all, wrong) "Listen, Nigro. Listen" I played. It sounded too much as a Gershwin. The Nigro said:"But that you stole to the Master." "Yes" "Stop bothering and go on writing." Now we are at the entrance of a theatre, something comes close and we start talking about music. The Nigro points to me and says: "Yes, he knows about music, but due to the fact that I give the material to him." He, it is true, gave me the material. Whatever I asked him, the Nigro had it. As soon as I knew him -far away by 1982- I told him that my wife and I, in our first date, confessed each other what we loved: Faulkner, Chandler, Borges, the Seventh Circle, Singing on the rain, Gershwin, Schumann, the Studios by Chopin and the "Concert for two pianos" by Poulenc.

  "Which we cannot find anywhere. Incredible, Nigro. We do not have even one version." The following day, the Nigro gave one to me. The one that has the same Poulenc in one of the pianos. "¡What a wonderful concert!, isn´t it? -he said-. It is the joy of living."  He was it, too. He made me hear the version of "Tea for two" that Shostakovich had written for the Symphonic of Leningrad. The thing was as follows: the Symphonic had started a world tour and, it was managed by its great director, Kirill Kondrashin. The legend says that Kondrashin realises -at the step of the train where they were to leave- that the tour included U.S.A. and that they did not have something good for a bis. "What shall we do if they ask a bis at the Carnegie Hall?" From the station they phoned Shostakovich, who replied: "Do not worry!" And a short time later it is in Kondrashin´s hands an arrangement of "Tea for two" that Dimitri had composed in half an hour.  It is a master play, undoubtedly. Except for the Anita O´Day at the Newport Festival, no other version excels it.  I learnt about it -as many other things- thanks to the Nigro.

  He had the 104 symphonies by Haydn. And he said, against that many others say, that they were not all similar ones. And he was capable to whistle or hum the 104. But the best that the Nigro made me know, was to himself. To know him was one of the happiness, of the privileges of my life. He was a great man. A man that loved the cinema, the music, tell jokes, receive friends in his house, make you discover something that he had discovered long ago but he rediscovered it with you. We are going to miss him. Even when we remember him -and it will be frequently- some of his joy, of his pleasure for living, of his passion, it will make us more supportable the misfortune of this world.

***

Painful: the critic Salvador Sammaritano died.

Written by Pablo de Vita for www.elcine.ws

  Today Thursday the life of Salvador Sammaritano ended, he was loved by everybody and he had a trajectory in the argentine journalism very difficult to compare. The remembrance to the mythical founder of the Cine Club Nucleo and creator of the magazine Time of Molvies do not omit the animated talker, always ready for an anecdot with that one that offered fondness, comprehension, support and courage to generations of people passionately fond of the Seventh Art. He was a gifted journalist, wellknown cineclubist, mellomanous and a man of great culture, but first of all he was a great man that will remain in happy memories and in his legate.

 Almost as his admired Ingmar Bergman, during his childhood he devoted to show images on a sheet and, a couple of decades later, to show the creator of Persona and Cries and Whispers together with some other bastions of  world cinema. A childhood that mixed the afternoons at a theatre of dreams with the National of Palermo where his small eyes read on the programs the offer of "a sound and spoken picture" almost as a novelty.  Salvador Sammaritano -it is impossible other name that could define him better-, one of the founders of the cineclub Nucleo, was professor at the not less mythical School of Cinema of Santa Fe, subdirector at the National Institute of Cinema, he played the works of Andrei Tarkosvky, Buster Keaton, Andrzej Wajda, Rene Clair, Marc Allegret or Sergei Eisenstein on (small) screens of the country with the Cineclub during many years through Channel 7 and created a magazine of short life -and long mark- as Time of Movies was, undoubtedly, the best issue of cinema edited in Argentina.  He was a great talker, passionate mellomanous and author of a sentence that reformulates gospel according to Mateous with much pleasure: "Blessed the audacious because the kingdom of cinema will be of them." In memories he will always be for ever as a fundamental link to understand the history of the argentine cinema.  Sammaritano dedicated all his life to promote and preserve jewels of the cinematography; and also to colaborate and join with the students of cinema who gave their first steps from the school rooms of the Enerc (where his remains were veiled) made their first steps.  He was considered simply a teacher, whose best class was his own life as an example, he was honoured at the 20th. Festival of Cinema at Mar del Plata.

  A proof of the intelectual honesty that accompanied him all his life was the fact that Nucleo never failed to exhibit pictures of high artistical level even when they referred to a strong subject. In fact, many years ran at the Auditorium of the Superior Institute of Religious Culture on the Rodriguez Peña street up to a problem with the municipal qualification of the cinema obliged them to search for a new address for their shows.  But the story had began during previous decades, more precisely in 1952, when Sammaritano together with Jorge Farenga, Luis Isaac Soriano and Ventura Pereyro (all friends and neighbours of Colegiales quarter) approached interested in sharing and promoting great titles starting in a way much more than modesty, with a projector of 16mm Kodascope of double drilling and, then, the mute cinema times. The Wagon of James Cruze (1923) was the title chosen. Theatres as Los Independientes (at present, Payro), the Bank Association, the Lorraine theatre (the memories of which cause emotions to those who comb their grey hair), the Dilecto, the Institute of Religious Superior Culture, the Lara Cinema, the IFT, the Alfil, the Maxi, the Premier, the Electric, the cultural bastion that is the Cosmos theatre (in several opportunities and even today), the Tita Merello Complex and the Gaumont theatre are the places where the cineclub wandered with their cans of movies and with previews, revisions and films that were left outside the commercial circuit.    

Salvador Sammaritano y su hijo Alejandro, en una función del Cine Club Núcleo

  They also made shows at squares, parks and schools (it is impossible to omit other efforts made by Mario Grasso and Victor Iturralde at this level) and slum quarters where never had seen pictures: “We had learnt that some USA anthropologists had played in the african forest movies by Norman McLaren, that the natives attended with enormous interest –remembered Sammaritano-. And then we took material of that director... among the  pictures there was one that was on some numbers in colors, on a white background, that changed color and interchanged on an exercise book causing all of an hecatomb and they fell to fit in again. It caused much laughter, and a huge bolivian man that looked at the screen with very much attention, in the middle of the picture turns to the public and cried:¡Shit, don´t you realise that the accounts are well done! A point that we, "intelectuals", had never realised and started to take into account the calculations which, effectively, were well solved. To say that some months later when mathematics started to be teached at schools, a professor came from USA to instruct a group of argentine professors on that subject and he showed, as an example, a picture by McLaren: that one of the little numbers. The story of the man of the Puna is one of the prettiest anecdotes..." .  Each photogram of Chaplin, Godard, Clouzot, Fassbinder, Fellini, Pasolini, Eisenstein and so... so many... are reflected in the pupils of any moviegoer who discovered them thanks to Salvador Sammaritano and, as consequence, he could get into a permanent renewal of stetics, that one of men and that one of society.   

Salvador Sammaritano receiving the Konex Prize.

  He was operated on 2002 due to a cancer very advanced that made fear for his life in that moment, he recovered several times and also continued attending to Cine Club Nucleo with certain regularity up to a few weeks ago. At the moment of his desease he was admitted to the Colegiales Sanatorium and family members informed that his health had declined very much. With the death of Salvador Sammaritano, who was prized with a Condor of Argentum due to his evolution and as honoured partner of the Association of Cinema Critics, disappears a mainstain of critics and argentine cineclubism and, not as minor detail, above all a good person.

***

Interview by Mariane Pecora, VAS journal.


  Founder of cineclub Nucleo, half a siecle ago, an organization that goes on introducing three movies weekly in exclusivity to their numerous members, at the Cosmos and Gaumont, professor of cinema at the National School, of which he participated as founder, conductor of culture courses of cinema at Channel 7, secretary of editorial staff of the disappeared magazine Radiolandia, he participated in important forum of world cinema, and above all due to his solidarium spiritum and a well being man, he made a show of his gospel surname. The good Sammaritan went out and the people and above all the cinema world will miss the support that always meant his presence in all events of the national cinema, but with the reliability of all the culture of the world cinema.  Mariano Pecora interviewed him not long ago and this is the summary of the broad note made by the collegue.

It is said that in the Cineclub Nucleo formed many of the most important directors and critics of our country. Since fifty years to now Salvador Sammaritano keeps alive this passion for the movies. His activity there was not only limited to show films to the associates, but he has projected it to the community by means of shows in universities, clubs in quarters, support to weeks of cinema, support to cineclubs in provinces and up to shows in parks and slum quarters. The promotion of independent movies, with the new tendencies in the world and movies with social objetives, let him become friendship with directors such as Federico Fellini and with stars of the level of Vittorio Gasman, Marcello Mastroiani and Nino Manfreddi.

  The Cinemateca Argentina, the Fondo Nacional de las Artes, the Konex Foundation and Argentores are some of the many organizations of national and international level that go on making homage to Salvador Sammaritano due to his trajectory and dedication to the cinema.

 

  P.Vas.: The Cine Club Nucleo is on its continued 54 years of exhibition, please tell us how they started...

S. Sammaritano: We were a group of melomanous people of Colegiales area, who started enjoying pictures in the quarter theatre. One day, during 1953, we decided to make a show by our own. To attrack moviegoers we prepared a brochure on which we wrote :"a nucleous of young movies fans..."  I remember that the "nucleous" typography was bigger, as we had no name up to that time, as of that moment we started to let be known as Agrupación Cultural Nucleo.

P. Vas.: How and where did those first shows took place?

  S. Sammaritano: At the beginning we had a mute Kodak cop projector, and we made the shows in private houses: we rented or boughtt mute 16mm pictures.  Then we got a sound projector and started to find different spaces where to play the shows. Almost always we circulated by the quarter. We were at the Biravent auditory on Diagonal Norte St., we played some shows in the Teatro del Pueblo, in the Teatro de los Independientes (Pairó), in the cine Dilecto on Cordoba street. I remember that in that moment we obtained a copy of the  Journal d'un curé de campagne, by Bresson, without subtitles in Spanish which was played a Wednesday midnight with full attendance, with people sat on the corridors. We also were at the Premier theatre on Corrientes st., at the IFT close to the Abasto area, at the Comedy theatre on Rodriguez Peña st...: (we were on several theatres which are now multinational stores, hotels, etc.) after several travesies, and thanks to Bernardo Bergeret, who is in charged of the theatre, we obtained the Gaumont that is the best of all, and here we will stay.


 
P.Vas.: With regard to a theatre so special as that one of Teatro de la Comedia, there is an anecdot about how you could obtain same...

  S.S.: We always had problem to obtain a theatre. One day, walking through the "movies quarter" I met an old man who delivered the movie posters. This man asked me when we were going to start with the cineclub. I told him that we could not start because we did not have a place. Then he told me that he was going to get one for us. To tell you the truth, I did not believe him. Two days later, a woman from the Abril editors where I worked, phoned to me; she was Amalia sor. The point is that this nun was known by the man who delivered posters and she offered the Teatro de la Comedia theatre. In that place we stayed a long time. The nuns were marvellous, above all  Amalia sor. I remember once we were playing a picture very much compromissed and I told Amalia sor, cunningly that we could have problems with the police due to that film. She replied: "do not worry, the place has little doors on the walls that go to a secret passage: we will be able to run before the police come in".

  P.Vas.: During the 60ties, the magazine of the cineclub Nucleo, Tiempo de Cine was published. What can you tell us on that experience?

  S.S.:  Between 1960 and 1968 we edited with Victor Iturralde, José Agustín Mahieu and Hector Vena, Tiempo de Cine. On this magazine, we pointed out the decay of the official and commercial cinema, questioning its ossification and superficiality. Then we became the echo of a claim for a generational change referred to film production. On Tiempo de Cine we stated that it was necessary to update the cinema fact; as consequence, we started to have a look on young independent directors such as Simon Feldman, Rodolfo Kuhn, Ernesto Dawi, David Kohon, and Lautaro Murua, among others. We also made an analysis on the new european films, mainly referred to the French Nouvelle Vogue and the Italian Neorrealism.  Tiempo de Cine had a very fruitful life. I felt proud when Guido Aristarco, one of the more severe and ortodox art critics, wrote that it was the best magazine of cinema Spanish speaking.

  P.Vas.: Other subject that characterized Tiempo de Cine was the discussion on the movies politics of the militar government during the seventies...

  S.S.: That was a period when the government of that time had stated the censorship on films. Not only did we oppose to censorship but we argued about the performance of the National Institute of Cinematography. In example, we denounced the continued irregularities that there were in the operations of that institution, one of them was the sistematic relegation made on the new directors. Tiempo de Cine became a means of pressure and rejection to the continued violation to freedom of expression that was ordered by the censorship board during those years.

P. Vas.: What happened with Cine Club Nucleo during that long period of the 70ies when the pictures were censored or cut before being played?

  S.S. We, at Cine Club Nucleo, always showed movies without cuts. Of course, all the shows were prohibited for minors under 18 years old. During the 70ies, the maximum censor was a coleague journalist, the famous "Tato". There is an anecdote that shows him in full: I met Tato, in the street and I asked him to stop prohibiting movies; then he replied to me: You are mad, the more quantity of pictures I censor, the more pleased the priests and the militar men are; and, I work for them".
 

P. Vas: Which are the five films that left on you a personal footmark?

  S.Sammaritano: It is very difficult, I have seen so many... But I can mention: Battleship Potemkin by Serguei Eisenstein (1925); Intolerance by Griffith (1916); Alexander Nevsky by Serguei Eisenstein (1938); Bicycle Thief by Vittorio de Sica (1948) and The Magic Flute by Ingmar Bergman (1974)... There are so many, I am always afraid of forgetting some. Also we can rescue some Argentine films such as La Guerra Gaucha by Lucas Demare.

P. Vas: What can you tell us about the relation between movies and literature?

  S.S.: The relation is too close, most pictures are based on literature works.  It depends on the genious of the director that a literary work is shown on the screen as a movie work. On the other hand, movies represent a society and each society has its own particulars, if not it is a film without body, without its own language. Each film has reflected an age and a community during a certain period of time.   
 

P. Vas: How do you define the relation theatre-television?

  S.S: Although it seems that they have the same language, they are quite different things. The television is subjected to the "famous" advertising turn, that takes up the continuity of the television story. On the other hand, on television it is always given priority to the economical profit. I had a television program namely Cineclub: we broadcasted it through Channel 7, it had a large audience.  We showed very good movies. But one day the channel authorities decided that it had to stop and so they did. The real thing is that I did not receive any payment for that program and I got the films free... but it was neither a good business for the channel.      

P. Vas: Where does this passion for movies come from?

  S.S:  Ahh! (he smiles)... The guilt perhaps comes from my mother, she took me as a boy to the Nacional theatre of Colegiales, it was on Dorrego street half a block from the barrier, I remember that we always attended a show named "Thursdays for ladies" when we enjoyed two or three pictures each time. Then at home I made movies with the tales on magazines and I projected them with a magic lantern, I had my own shows and charged 5 cents as admission. 

 

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