[Marxism] Cannes stands to cheer story of Che

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed May 19 21:17:15 MDT 2004

(First Michael Moore's FAHRENHEIT 9-11, now this!)

Cannes stands to cheer story of Che's road to revolution 
By Hugh Davies (Filed: 20/05/2004)

As the 20th century's most romanticised revolutionary,
Ernesto "Che" Guevara, dead since 1967, is being
immortalised in a rash of new films led by a British-backed
epic based on his writings. At two screenings in Cannes
yesterday, audiences reacted with standing ovations.

Critics hailed what Variety called a beautifully wrought
account of how 52 years ago, Guevara travelled on a 1939
Norton 500 from Buenos Aires through Chile, Machu Picchu in
Peru and Venezuela, on an eye-opening road trip. The
Motorcycle Diaries shows how the journey set the tone for
his devotion to communism.

The grisly details of what happened to him after the 1959
Cuban revolution - his role in nearly 2,000 executions, his
falling out with Fidel Castro, and his miserable death in
Bolivia where he had tried to trigger another uprising -
are left to other film-makers.

Instead, the Brazilian director Walter Salles, acclaimed
for Behind The Sun and Central Station, has concentrated on
Guevara's eight months in the company of a fellow
Argentinian, Alberto Granado, recreating his dawning social

At the time, Guevara, an inward-looking asthmatic, was an
upper-class medical student with no particular interest in
politics. The diaries, given to Salles in Havana by
Guevara's widow, Aleida, show how his travelling companion
stirred his interest in Stalin and the Russian revolution.

Granado, a tiny, impish man, now 81 and living in Havana,
worked closely with Salles to recreate the journey,
travelling with the director and his actors. He said in
Cannes: "I was 29 and he was 24. There was a sort of
progressive transformation. We were young, and we saw what
the reactionaries were doing to the world."

Crucial to the making of the film, which took five years,
was the £6.6 million raised by Film Four and the help of
Robert Redford, the executive producer.

Six years ago, Redford visited Cuba, where Guevara remains
lionised in statues, on murals, and at stores which sell
photographs of him marlin fishing with Castro and Ernest
Hemingway. Redford returned to Havana four months ago to
show The Motorcycle Diaries to Guevara's family. Che's
daughter, Celia, said: "If you read the books Daddy wrote,
you will see that the film is very faithful to the

A former revolutionary commander, Ramiro Valdes, was also
at the screening, and later Castro turned up at the Hotel
Nacional to discuss the film with Redford. Whether he saw
the picture is not known. Castro's uneasy relationship with
the more charismatic, and harder-working Guevara has never
been fully explained. It is thought that when he went to
Bolivia, the leader was glad to see the back of him.

Interest in the diary film is intense, especially as
Guevara is played by Gael Garcia Bernal, 25, the dark-eyed
Mexican actor who came to prominence in another road film,
Y tu mama tambien.

Omar Sharif played Che in 1969, and Antonio Banderos took
the role in Evita, eight years ago. In July, Terrence
Malik, who made Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line,
starts shooting the $40 million Che, which will follow
Guevera's final years.

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