El Che - Ernesto Guevara

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Last night was the most recent Dinner and A Movie installment with my mother. She was very excited, which surprised me, to watch a documentary I had rented about Ernesto Guevara entitled El Che. It certainly wasn’t some slick Hollywood offering but it was one of the better documentaries I have seen recently. It might be considered blasphemy but I will even go so far as to say that I enjoyed it more than the recently viewed Lost in La Mancha. There it is, I’ve said it. Is ‘enjoy’ really the right word to use about this film? Perhaps not but I’m not sure how else to describe it. Informative? Interesting? Definitely.

As I watch far too much television already, once owned a copy of The Motorcycle Diaries, and love history, I already new most of Guevara’s story. The motorcycle trip throughout Latin America with a friend when he was young that changed his life, his relationship with Castro whom he met in Mexico, the involvement in the Cuban revolution, and his subsequent death, many say at the hands of the CIA, in South America. However, the documentary went into great detail of these major events in his life and all the seemingly minor events leading up to each of them.

The thing I found most interesting was the change in Guevara. He began his journey as a doctor; a profession whose aim it is to save people’s lives and heal the sick. The poverty and injustice he witnessed while traveling throughout South America gave rise to his socialist beliefs which would eventually propel him onto the world stage. However, the methods that he eventually adopted to achieve his and Castro’s goals were often violent and bloody.

I also was unaware of the differences in the type of revolution both he and Castro were aiming for. Castro’s seemed to mirror that of other Communist nations, mainly the Soviet Union and China, while Che longed for a more pure Socialist movement. After a speaking tour overseas where he basically blasted Castro (although not actually saying who he was specifically speaking about), Guevara returned to Cuba where he and Castro began to fall out. Shortly after his return, Che went to the Congo where he tried to help local Guerillas in their struggle but things didn’t go well as planned. Once again, he returned to Cuba and then off to South America. It was unclear whether it was at Castro’s urging he left to continue the wider struggle in Latin America or it was due to their differing ideologies.

The end of the film, naturally, focused on Guevara’s death. Contrary to what I had originally believed, the CIA (according to the film) did not kill Che. They were definitely present in South America, helping governments trying to eliminate various Guerilla groups, including Che’s. He was eventually captured by the Bolivian military and executed. What really shocked me was the manner they treated his body after his death. Dragging him into a local laundry hut and propping him up on a table, military officials and local citizens were allowed to traipse through and view the body. He was in the exact same state as when he was shot – eyes and mouth slightly open, blood smeared across his chest, etc. At one point, a photographer hops up onto the table and straddles Che’s body to get an overhead shot of his face/body. The soldiers “responsible” for the body showed little respect for him and were constantly posing the body and mugging for the various photographers. I found it highly disgusting.

I think it would also be interesting to look into the whole Che Guevara phenomenon. Y’all know what I’m talking about. You can find bags, t-shirts, coffee mugs, just about anything you can imagine with the famous Alberto Kordo photo emblazoned upon it. They’ve even got little babies wearing Che-gear, supporting the cause….although most people out there, even the adults, couldn’t really tell you what he stood for.

As I mentioned earlier, a movie was made a few years ago about Ernesto Guevara’s early life, The Motorcyle Diaries. It’s a great film starring Gael Garcia Bernal – check it out. While doing a quick Google search for images to include in this post, I came across one of Benecio del Toro as Che. Apparently he’s playing Guevara in an upcoming movie by Steven Soderbergh entitled Guerilla which will be released some time next year. The resemblance is a bit scary.

El Che – A definite Captain Karen recommended documentary. Check it out if you get a chance.


SME said...

Che would have been a great man if he'd stuck with his original career path, no doubt. He ended up just a semi-psychotic thug doing other people's dirty work. It's a shame that such idealistic, energetic, intelligent people often horribly misdirect their gifts.

Wandering Coyote said...

Great review. I really enjoyed The Motorcycle Diaries, which I saw in the theatre.

I still think the CIA killed him.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'll have to check that out - it's a fascinating period and Che was obviously a fascinating person. How else do you explain all the Che-wear on people who could not tell you who he was?

Gardenia said...

I am looking forward to the movie. I've heard "Che" so much and didn't know what the heck he stood for, where he fit in, etc. It's interesting - live by violence, die by violence. War is brutal isn't it? What is it - sort of a collective rage where people like to see dead bodies like this, or go to hangings, etc.? Now, I guess we just watch violent movies and we have the sterility of the screens between us and the images.

Thanks for a great review!!!!!!

DiF said...

Che serviu inspiração pra muitos dos jovens guerrilheiros na serra maestra e até hoje serve de inspiração para guerrilheiros de todo dia que lutam na contra a ditadura por baixo dos panos que existe no mundo! ViVa Che

Anonymous said...

"Saint" Che was a Marxist/Communist Dictator who was firmly against capitalism and free enterprise. One thing is for sure though, the guy MUST BE a hero since I bought a coffee mug down at Wal-Mart with his face on it. Look! It says here that my coffee mug was made in Communist Red China. What a coincidence! Hey, they have that super trendy Red Star on their flag too. How ironic!

Funny how the El Che trend just "popped up" out of nowhere all of the sudden Hugh?

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator," -George W. Bush

Say, I wonder if I could get a coffee cup with him on it? I think that he would look way cooler if he got one of those hats with the Red Star O' Freedom on it like Saint Che used to wear. Maybe Saint Obama will start wearing one. I think an El Che Barret would have gone perfectly in that red, white & blue, Soviet Union style "Hope", "Change" propaganda poster that you see him in everywhere.

VIVA REVOLUTION! (Just as long as the government approves it first)

Anonymous said...

CIA and Green Berets were both involved.


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mridul said...

Che you will live in our heart till our last breath.
the energy that u gave us will make our blood thicker.
Revolution wins...

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