A Tribute to Air America’s Sam Seder and a Major Cuba Film by Nicole Cattell


My significant other is brilliant, and so is Air America superstar political commentator Sam Seder‘s.
His is Nicole Cattell, an important documentary filmmaker whose REVOLUC!ON airs this next Tuesday night at 10 pm EST on New York’s Thirteen-WNET.
The film focuses on the personal stories of five Cuban photographers — on both sides of the political divide — “whose lives and work span nearly five decades of revolution in Cuba.”
Here is a snippet of a Q&A with Cattell that is worth reading in full:

What led you to make REVOLUC!ON: Five Visions?
I saw some photographs of Che Guevara that so perfectly captured the dream of the Cuban revolution that I was instantly captivated by them. I started to look into meeting the photographer. This is what led me to Raúl Corrales.
Then I started to get more interested in trying to find out what became of that dream so beautifully defined in a photo. So, it made sense to me to look at this question through photography, and that is how the film became about five photographers whose work spans nearly five decades of revolution in Cuba.
What did you want to achieve with your film?
I wanted to offer a multifaceted perspective of the Cuban revolution and explore the intersection of art and revolution. I have always been interested in not only how artists respond to and describe their social circumstances, but also in how they can participate in transforming them.
I wondered how artists participated in a society that was undergoing radical transformation or revolution. Initially, the film was just going to be about the photographers who were hired by Castro to document the revolution. The story became more complex when I realized that the revolution was not just one moment in time in Cuba, but that technically, the revolution is still happening on the island.
So it made sense to work with artists whose work spans that entire period. And it allowed me to discover the changing and varied perspectives on revolution.

I didn’t ask Sam’s permission to post this note from him to me — and hope it’s OK — but it adds to the drama of this film and how it was made:

I think it was folks in the Ministry of Culture who tipped us off that Cuban counter intelligence was following us while we were making the film. Ultimately it was fine but i was freaking about losing the footage.

seder1.jpgIntriguing. Sam Seder and his wife shot this film in Cuba in 2002 — and it sounds like there were evident parts of a security apparatus in plain view.
But when I was in Cuba recently, this just wasn’t all that evident — except around venues like the US Interests Section (the equivalent of the US Embassy). I looked hard for people watching, following, monitoring — and as a runner who ran several times through hefty chunks of Havana– and who met numerous people without supervision, clearance, or approval — I just had a different experience than Sam.
But this film should be interesting for Cuba interested folks as well as artists.
Now about Sam Seder — who has been the long term host of both Air America’s Majority Report and then the Sam Seder Show. His gig on Air America ends this very week, today (I think) — although he will do a Sunday show now from time to time. (Actually, Sam Seder’s show concludes next Friday, Friday the 13th.)
I want to thank him on behalf of liberals, progressives, and radical centrists like me — and even conservatives who really do depend on the sanity of people like Sam to make the world safe for a little political eccentricity — for outstanding, humorous, penetrating, and policy-sculpting commentary and interviews these last couple of years.
I have been one of many who have benefited from semi-regular exchanges with Sam on his show and consider him one of the best out there in progressive radio.
So, watch Nicole Cattell’s film next Tuesday — but say a toast to Sam Seder tonight.
— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “A Tribute to Air America’s Sam Seder and a Major Cuba Film by Nicole Cattell

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  2. Ashton says:

    I sent the following email to Sam Seder’s gmail account and I hope the idea takes off a little. If you could mention this to Sam, I’d appreciate it:
    When I first read about the moving of your show to Sunday, the only word that could describe me was despondent. I was shocked that AAR was not just moving you to a different time, but also cutting your air time dramatically in order to lessen the amount of “substance” you were producing over the airways.
    However, I think this may end up being a blessing in disguise as more opportunities lay ahead for you and your style of radio talk. I hope you take advantage of this opportunity and continue to mature into the mouthpiece you are becoming. For you to do this, I think you must consider the biggest strength of the Majority Report and the Sam Seder Show: their use of the internet and the blogosphere.
    When I began listening to the Majority Report, I knew little about blogs. After just a week, I was reading DailyKos, LiberalOasis, Atrios, etc. on a daily basis. You should use this new format of media to continue your show as a podcast/blog combo.
    I assume many of your listeners are like me, they cannot commit to a specific time to listen to your show, we are part of the TiVo culture. We need the flexibility to use podcasts to listen to you, and many of your most important callers were not able to transition to the new morning time of the Seder Show. As an independent podcast, your show can take advantage of internet freedom.
    I am ignorant of production costs for your show and how much time it takes to prepare the 1:50 of content, but the cost of distributing your show as a podcast on the blogs you have associated with would be almost nothing. If you were to simply post a podcast to Podcast Alley, I guarantee you would be in their Top 10 from day 1.
    Adjusting to a streaming, blog based show where only callers need to be present during taping would be interesting, but I bet you could maintain your famous blogger callers, many of your favorite listener callers, and more senate/celebrity callers than you would expect. You could expand your listener base especially if you mention the idea of continuing a podcast over your final few days.
    Take advantage of the technology and freedom of the internet! Make a podcast that is at least half an hour long, shorter ones are annoying.
    Maintain the format of your show, it works for you.
    Additionally, you could charge a menial fee for each podcast, $0.25 per day is the cost of an AAR premium subscription, get ad revenues, sell kitschy crap. Look at Jack Clarks Blast the Right podcasting at therationalradical.org , he does a great job and you could do even better.
    Also, do get the blog in better shape, that may be the most important thing you do.
    Good Luck, and thanks for all you’ve done.
    PS, I have recently come into some money when my uncle died in Scotland last year. Unfortunately his money is being held up due to international banking rules. If you could help me shuttle money through your bank account, I could give you a cut… 😉


  3. Adrienne Grey says:

    I’m not sure what “Sam Seder Show” Jacob thinks he heard (or how long ago). I’m a daily Seder junkie and the guy is brilliant, articulate and very funny. I can’t think what could be meant by he “stuttered and spluttered.” Even three years ago when he started out on Majority Report with Janeanne Garofalo he was great to listen to, though the interchange between the two got distracting toward the end. Since he got his solo show, he’s been fabulous. I podcast Thom Hartmann daily too, but as great as Thom is, Sam is my absolute favorite. And no one, not even Thom Hartmann, counters the freepers as deftly and with as much humor as Sam Seder. Mornings will be a drag after Friday…


  4. steambomb says:

    Why is Sams show ending? I find it quite enjoyable. Damn!


  5. Jacob Matthan says:

    Although Sam Seder is intelligent and has a great grasp of the liberal political approach, he was not a good Talk Show Host. Sam stuttered and spluttered and in many cases could not complete his sentences and thoughts, changing most of them mid sentence.
    Compared to the truly greats as Mike Malloy, Peter Werbe, Guy James, Bernie Ward, Ray Taliaferro, Sam was more hype than a good talk show host.
    That Sam is being taken off Air America was inevitable. Maybe we will see the truly great liberal hosts (http://talkshowratings.blogspot.com/ ) come on the air and fake ones like Rhandi Rhodes (who loves the sound of her own voice and her ideas), Rachel Maddow and others follow the Al Franken and Sam Seder route OFF the air.


  6. John H. Higgins says:

    I was just in Cuba touring the island…..the cleanest country in the world,and in many ways the most sane. In Santa Clara I visited the monument to Che Guavera,an amazing achievement in a country so strapped for funds. A moving tribute to Che where cameras [inside] are not allowed for security reasons. Couldn’t quite understand that one.
    Our government’s take on Castro is that he is a dictator and that the Cubans can’t leave the island.
    When asked the question….why Castro has decided to retain power for so long, 95% of the people respond that he has been overwhelmingly elected each time and the people want him as president. When asked the question if they can leave the island,their response is 100% yes but that they don’t have the financial resources to travel and that, for fear of their staying, host countries will generally not give them visas.
    There is much positive to say about Cuba, and, once they develop their off shore oil resources and invest these funds in higher salaries for the workers, [they now only make the equivalent of 13 us dollars per month], Cubans will be just fine. If other natural resources are as well developed…like the further development of tourism….Cuba will become a net exporting country.
    Nonetheless, cuban intellectuals often say, Socialism is the longest road from Capitalism to Capitalism.
    Let’s hope they miss the “Macdonalds on every corner” step in the process.
    When criticized for being a one party state as called for in their own constitution. Didn’t G W Bush and Karl Rove have plans for the GOP to be the only dominant party in the US. As most Cubans intellectuals say when comparing Castro and Bush….”Same dog, different collar”. The common cubans when comparing Bush to Castro, think Bush is an ignorant scoundrel….in this the progressives in the US and the people of Cuba maintain solidarity. jhh


  7. larry birnbaum says:

    “I saw some photographs of Che Guevara that so perfectly captured the dream of the Cuban revolution that I was instantly captivated by them. … Then I started to get more interested in trying to find out what became of that dream so beautifully defined in a photo.”
    This is a good example of the aestheticization of politics, which I believe is a dangerous confusion. The Nazis and communists both were always very big on this. It’s a perversion of what politics should actually be about, and one that intellectuals over the past century and more fell into all too often. If you want to live your own life as a work of art, well, it’s an alienated and ironic way to live, but that’s your right. But it’s deeply narcissistic to believe that it would be a good idea for society to arrange itself along similar lines.


  8. American knows best says:

    I hear tell that Cuba’s roads aren’t stuffed with fat SUVs. That you see a lot of bicyclists.
    I hear tell that the city of Havana grows a huge amount of organic vegetables. More than any other city in the world.
    I hear tell that Cubans don’t get to eat super-nutritional happy meals at McDonalds.
    I hear tell that the Cuban people have a higher literacy rate than Mississipians and S. Carolinans just so they can read state propaganda.
    What a bunch of primitives.
    I bet there kids still play with tops and yo-yos rather than violent computer games.
    Hopefully Castro will die soon and we can get our people in there to educated these oafs to what’s good in life.


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