News of the death of Guido Santi, a College of the Canyons faculty member and renowned documentary filmmaker, left many at the college saddened as word spread Monday evening.
Santi had been with the college since 2002 as an adjunct faculty, and became a full-time cinema instructor December 2016.
“When I would see him at college events and when he would come to see me in my office, his passion, zest for life, regard for people and respect for the human spirit made a mark on me,” said COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook in a released statement. “He was an example of someone, when choosing from all the things they could be, who chose to be kind.”
Santi’s influence positively affected the students he taught, recalled Ron Entrekin, a now-retired lab engineer in the college’s media entertainment arts department.
“He was warm; he was European-charming, because he was Italian, spoke four languages fluently,” Entrekin said. “But more importantly, his care for the students and his knowledge of film was irreplaceable.”
Born and raised in Italy, Santi also worked on documentary films and wrote and directed “Concertino,” a film about four teenagers living in the suburbs of Rome, for RAI — Italy’s national public broadcasting company.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Urbino, Italy and a master’s degree in film and television production from USC after his passion for films brought him to the U.S.
There, he met his wife and directing partner, Tina Mascara. The creative duo directed the documentary films “Chris & Don: A Love Story” and “Monk with a Camera,” which were produced under their joint production company Asphalt Stars Productions.
Santi was very involved with the college’s Friday Night Film Series and helped expand the cinema department’s horror film archive, securing a donation of 500 horror films in October 2017 from Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor in Islamic law at the UCLA School of Law.
“I valued Guido in such a way that I tried to emulate his teaching style,” Entrekin said. “If I was half the teacher he was, I would have been so happy. He really was amazing. He would adapt his lesson plans to his class. I don’t think he ever gave the same lecture twice.”
Jon Amador, a COC professor of radio and media, said Santi loved to talk about his craft.
“It used to tickle me to walk by the studio and see 25 or 30 students chocked full like sardines in there,” Amador said. “Huddled around him in almost dead silence, hanging on every slow, but deliberate word from this gentle, humble man and his very thick, very authentic Roman accent.”
Dave Brill, a full-time faculty member in the MEA department, said Santi didn’t have an ego and was always a joy to work with.
“I’m shocked, and this was a blow to our department,” he said. “Santi had such a bright spirit, and we’d known each other since we worked together as part timers.”
Claudia Acosta, the department chair for modern languages and cultures, had known him for six to seven years when he was teaching part time. The two had been planning a study-abroad trip when Santi suddenly died.
“He taught cinema and Italian, and he was an amazing colleague,” she said. “A master teacher who students just really liked a lot. He was a master who could teach you beginning and advanced.”
Amador said that students under Santi’s instruction turned out beautiful cinematography work and clearly understood a grasp of lighting, camera work and shooting, thanks to Santi.
“I’ll always remember Guido for his warmth, his concern for everyone, and his smile and laughter. He always brought a sense of levity to the day.”
Memorial services are still being planned and details will be shared as soon as they are available.