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A tribute to Claude Santelli

Claude Santelli died on a December evening at the precise moment when the SACD - of which he was president five times between 1983 and 1992 - was having a showing at its Maison des Auteurs of the wonderful film on the Alexis Gruss Circus that he made ten years ago.
He was preparing his staging of The Magic Flute under that same circus tent with his usual passion when the accident occurred that was to take his life.
Claude Santelli's work will be remembered for being both varied, powerful and militant ever since his first appearances on Le Théâtre de la jeunesse, a television programme that brought him to the attention of wide audiences early on.
He retained a child's sense of wonder about the world of performing arts. The theatre was his home, and he staged several productions. He was an active spectator, attending performances almost every evening, which he commented on the following day with the sensitivity and spirit of an adolescent and the competence of a highly cultivated man.
Like Camus he knew that the question of morality is at the very core of life, that men's actions are only meaningful and worthy when nurtured by sincerity and a desire to transcend, and that the more trivial the motive the more uncertain the work. Therein lay the source of his struggles, the ethical and political armour of his commitments.
His passionate commitment was to creating television for the people that was also ambitious, blending enjoyment, intelligence and education. He wrote and directed numerous films for it, in particular several adaptations of short stories by Maupassant that were landmarks in the history of French television.
He was committed to preserving the primary virtues of art - freedom, imagination and rigour - threatened by the levelling and controlling of artistic creation orchestrated by the economic powers-that-be…
His commitment was also to support SACD playwrights in their inalienable determination to have their identity respected, to continue to create works of art rather than participate in making manufactured products, to help their status and remuneration to progress, and to further develop the organisation's cultural activities.
For the past seven years he was president of the Beaumarchais association, which he contributed in creating at the SACD together with Jean Matthyssens. He campaigned there for discovering new playwrights, bringing out plays about our times, making the voices of today's writers be heard. We spent hours in exciting, luminous discussions over scripts, trying to detect a promising new playwright - even a great one - beneath the awkward turns of phrase; we hoped to make a journey, to take flight through this contribution to a tragic order of beauty and to a rich imagination. More than five hundred new works came out in this way over the association's twelve or so years of existence, in all areas of the dramatic arts from theatre to film, from television to dance, from opera to radio, and including the most advanced forms of interactive creation.
Finally, there was the circus, an old passion from which he drew his eternal youth, his capacity to be thrilled and to love. It was the kind of love that is life's most creative ferment, which can also destroy you… but not totally. Instilled in us are his works of art, his struggles and at the very core "an invincible sun".

Paul Tabet, Director of the Beaumarchais association