Raymundo Gleyzer

Thousandsuns
Cinema

Raymundo Gleyzer (Argentina) was born in Buenos Aires in 1941 to Jacobo Gleyzer (a Russian-Ukrainian immigrant) and Sara Aijen (originally from Brazil). His parents were both artists and activists who co-founded the Idisher Folk Theatre-Teatro Popular Judío in Buenos Aires, staging performances of plays by Chekov and others, which undoubtedly influenced their children early on. After high school, Gleyser began studying economics but quickly turned his attention to filmmaking, enrolling in the cinema program at Universidad Nacional de la Plata in the early 1960s. His first film La tierra quema (1964) was shot when he was 21, after hitchhiking to Brazil with not much more than his 16mm camera. Some of Gleyzer’s earliest films from this period were created concurrently with his time working as a reporter, including Ceramiqueros de tras la sierra (1965) and Nuestras islas Malvinas (1966). He was also the first Argentine cameraperson to work in the Falkland Islands, where he produced a television series for Telenoche. Gleyzer’s filmography consists of 15 films. His lone fiction feature, Los Traidores (1973), was inspired by the true story of a Peronist union leader who faked his own kidnapping in an attempt to clinch an election. As a member of the People’s Revolutionary Army, in 1973 Gleyzer co-founded Cine de la Base, a film collective whose objectives included securing networks of access for his films outside of the bourgeois moviegoing circuit. Gleyzer wrote in 1971: I don’t believe in revolutionary cinema, I believe firmly in the revolution. He disappeared in Argentina in 1976. Gleyzer was the subject of the feature-length documentary Raymundo (2003), directed by Ernesto Ardito and Virna Molina. 

IF I DON’T WORK, THEY KILL ME, AND IF I WORK, THEY KILL ME 

ONLINE SCREENING DATES: May 20 – June 10, 2021 

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: If I Don’t Work, They Kill Me, And If I Work, They Kill Me, 20 min, 1974

* Curated by Steve Macfarlane with very special and heartfelt thanks to Juana Sapire. 


If I Don't Work, They Kill Me, And If I Work, They Kill Me, 20 min, 1974

If I Don’t Work, They Kill Me, And If I Work, They Kill Me (me matan si no trabajo y si trabajo me matan) is a white-hot expose of toxic working conditions at the INSUD metallurgical factory in the partido of La Matanza, just outside Buenos Aires. Gleyzer and his crew sit with workers while they recount workplace abuses and sing darkly comic songs around the communal pot. “The company fills us with lead, and the bureaucracy too.” The poisoning suffered by the workers propels them towards a bitter strike which, while successful, also results in the murder of attorney and labor advocate Rodolfo Ortega Peña at the hands of the paramilitary Alianza Anticomunista Argentina. Like most of Gleyzer’s later work, the film ends in a call for its viewers to take up arms and join the struggle against capitalism. – Steve MacFarlane

The artist is an intellectual: a worker who must choose either to use his skill in service of the people, urging on their struggles and the development of a revolutionary process, or to openly side with the dominating classes, serving as a transmitter and reproducer of bourgeois ideology. As intellectuals, we must take the same risk as the working class in our daily lives. – Raymundo Gleyzer

Last seen on May 26th, 1976, Raymundo Gleyzer was an insurgent documentarian who, in collaboration with his wife Juana Sapire and itinerant filmmaking collective Cine de la Base, used ethnographic and clandestine filmmaking to challenge capitalism during his native Argentina’s decline into fascism. With just one feature-length film and a litany of polemical shorts to his name, Gleyzer was “disappeared” at age 35 by the CIA-backed military junta that would rule Argentina until 1983. While Gleyzer’s filmic influences included Glauber Rocha, Nelson Pereira dos Santos, and Joris Ivens, he also sought to sidestep the glories associated with auteur filmmaking. Once when invited to the Cinematheque Francais, Gleyzer’s short films were programmed alongside Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise; the filmmakers engaged in a heated debate thereafter, as Gleyzer found Godard’s film inaccessible and clouded by its uneasy Maoism. Cine de la Base strove for a more equitable relationship between companeros in the fields and factories and the leftist intellectuals outfitted with 16mm cameras by their university film programs; Gleyzer and his comrades would charge admission for screenings in metropolitan areas so they could take the films on tour to laborer communities and peasant enclaves. The work stands in equal opposition to the Hollywood dreck being shoved down the developing world’s throats then and now, as well as to the jargon-intensive experiments that have in hindsight come to dominate the Western canon’s dalliances with leftist cinema. After Gleyzer’s kidnapping at the hands of right-wing paramilitary forces, his wife Juana Sapire fled to Peru (and later Manhattan) with their toddler son Diego. Back in the States, his friend and producer Bill Susman (who had volunteered to fight in the Abraham Lincoln Brigades during the Spanish Civil War) then circulated a call to action among the American film community for his release. The signatories were a who’s who of ’70s filmmakers, critics and programmers, including Elia Kazan, Francis Ford Coppola, Terrance Malick, Judith Crist, Jane Fonda, Dan Talbot, and many others — further testimony to Gleyzer’s stature in his own lifetime. – Steve MacFarlane 

Read more about Raymundo Gleyzer here.  All stills, photographs and artwork courtesy ©Estate of Raymundo Gleyser / Juana Sapire.