Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh will release a four hour epic about the life of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The 257-minute biopic will be released in two parts in January. In a stroke of inspired casting, Benicio del Toro plays the Argentine revolutionary, for which he won top honors at Cannes. This preview trailer is for a special screening later this month in New York and LA.

The real Che

Ernesto "Che" Guevara
was a hero to some, a villain to others, and just a T-shirt design to many Americans. Che was a doctor, an asthmatic, a fervent bike rider, and a revolutionary who fought in Cuba, Africa, and finally South America, where he was killed by Bolivian Rangers under the direction of the CIA. This isn't lefty propaganda--nobody denies it; in fact, those involved took special pride in hunting down the rebel. They took turns posing around his corpse. I'm sure their intention was to demystify Che as a mere mortal, but the pictures provided a haunting pietà to the fallen guerrilla fighter.

After his capture and execution. Bolivia, 1967.

A declassified CIA document, an "Intelligence Information Cable" dated Oct. 9, 1967, is the first intelligence report on Che's capture. The cable states that the Bolivian army is dispatching an interrogator to confirm Che’s identity. The CIA also dispatched its own operative, Félix Rodríguez, who interrogated Guevara, gathered intelligence on his operation, and took photos of his documents and supervised his execution. To read the declassified document, click HERE for the pdf file.

The young Ernesto took a year off medical school and traveled the backroads of South America on a 1939 Norton 500 cc motorcycle

Che's dramatic life has inspired several films, ranging from the good to the terrible. One of the best is "The Motorcycle Diaries" (2004) based on Che's journals. The film (and his journal) reveals a thoughtful young man gradually radicalized by the people he meets and the poverty he encounters traveling throughout South America.

A scene from "The Motorcycle Diaries" (2004) in which Che (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) and his best friend Alberto (Rodrigo De la Cerna) meet Peruvian peasants struggling to survive.

The worst film has to be "Che!" (1969) starring--believe it or not--Omar Sharif. Jack Palance plays Fidel Castro, I swear. Skip that one.

Read A. O. Scott's review of Soderbergh's "Che" in The New York Times HERE. For more on the life of Che, click HERE. Or HERE. Or HERE.

The rebel at rest: a candid shot after the revolution

"The laws of capitalism, blind and invisible to the majority, act upon the individual without his thinking about it. He sees only the vastness of a seemingly infinite horizon before him. That is how it is painted by capitalist propagandists, who purport to draw a lesson from the example of Rockefeller — whether or not it is true — about the possibilities of success. The amount of poverty and suffering required for the emergence of a Rockefeller, and the amount of depravity that the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude entails, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible to make the people in general see this."

--Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928-1967)

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