Sunday, June 21, 2009

Che - the film on Che Guevara

The part II of the film Che was released in Argentina on 18 June. I made a reservation quickly and reached the theatre ahead of time, anticipating big rush. Hmm...there were just only about ten people. I was surprisd and puzzled by the low turnout for the premier of this film about a great Argentine hero. Another one of those Argentine contradictions!

May be the Argentines do not consider Che Argentine enough! Che Guevara had left Argentina for good at the age of 25 and spent the rest of his adventure and ideology filled life in Cuba and other parts of Latin America. His life ended in Bolivia at the fairly young age of thirty nine. It is believed that Che,at the end, wanted to come home and bring about a revolution in Argentina itself. Prior to that he wanted to liberate the neighbouring Bolivia and establish a proletarian rule there. But his ill-fated revolutionary journey was put to an end before that.In any case, even if Che had tried revolution in Argentina at that time, he might have faced the same end as in Bolivia. However, Che was a source of inspiration for the leftist guerilla movement in Argentina which took off in Argentina and Latin America later.

Che had no chance in Bolivia, although he mistakenly believed that the peasants and miners of Bolivia would rise in support of his guerilla war to overthrow the government there. He blindly believed that the model of Cuban revolution was repeatable in countries like Bolivia. The first hurdle was that he and his band of Cubans were looked at as foreigners, with some skepticism and even suspicion by the Bolivians. The local communist party did not support him, based on their conclusion that Bolivians were not ready for an armed struggle. The government of Bolivia and the CIA were determined to crush leftist rebels to ensure that Cuba was not repeated. Che and his tiny band of guerillas were outnumbered and outgunned by the Bolivian armed forces. Ineveitably, Che was captured and executed in October 1967. This Bolivian adventure of Che and his end is the story in part II of the film.

In part I of the film which was screened a few months back,Che´s role in the Cuban revolution is shown. Che meets Fidel in 1955, at a gathering in Mexico City. He listens to Castro's plans and signs on as a member of the July 26th Movement. He leads the attack of one of the guerilla bands and marches into Havana celebrating the victory of the Cuban revolution. The film covers the role of Che as a minister in the cuban government and his speech at the UN.

Benicio del Toro has done justice in his role as Che. The director Steven Soderbergh has taken pains to narrate the story of Che naturally and true to the biography ,without Hollywooding the story. In the film, Che has come out as a revolutionary martyr. Part II of the film is more gripping than part I and leaves a more powerful impact.

Director Soderbergh has taken a bold gamble to stretch the film to two parts lasting for more than four hours to narrate the revolutionary character of Che. But even this was not enough to cover the fascinating life story of Che. In his relatively short life of 39 years, Che had a life filled with idealism, action and adventures. Although he spent his first 24 years in Argentina, he became thereafter a true latin American and a standard bearer of global revolution. He first went to Bolivia and from there to Peru and then to central America. In Guatemala,he joined the struggle to defend the leftist government of Arbenz, which was overthrown as part of the cold war politics. From Guatemala, he went to Mexico where he joined Fidel Castro´s movement.

The end of Che was predictable. As a pure and unchangeable revolutionary, Che could not have died a natural death at old age. The revolutionary fire in him was always burning and it would not have allowed him to settle into normal life. It was not the Bolivians who killed him. It was the fire within himself which burnt him to death. Position and power did not appeal to him. As a minister in the Cuban government,he was uncomfortable and wanted to get out for the next campaign. He felt that his karma was in fighting, liberation and revolution. He, therefore set off to Africa where he joined the Congolese guerillas.But the experience there was not to the satisfaction of the revolutionary. So he came back to Latin America and thought of the idea of a guerilla war in Bolivia. Fidel Castro, knowing that Che did not have a chance in Bolivia , let him go since he also felt that Che did not fit in the post- revolution Cuba. Part II of the film, in fact, starts with Fidel Castro on TV, reading a letter from Che Guevara.

While this is a serious biographical film on the revolutionary aspect of the personality of Che, there is the other delightful film ¨Diaries of a motorcyclist¨which is about Che´s journey through Latin America in his motorcycle.It depicts the character of the young Che in his formative years trying out unarmed adventures. This journey was the one which initiated Che´s understanding of the world outside Argentina and motivated him to fight against injustice.

Che, the film, succeeds in reminding the audience of the place of Che Guevara in the history of Latin America and that of the world. His name and image have inspired and romanticised revolution in the hearts and minds of generations after him.

I have seen criticism of the film as well as Che by the Commie baiters. But the fact is that Che´s dream has now been fulfilled by the contemporary Latin America. Che, in his grave, would be pleased with the reemergence of Left which has come to power in many countries of Latin America. But the Left has come to power peacefully through the ballot and not by the bullet believed and practised by Che and his companeros. The election of Left means empowerment of the masses who have started driving the political and economic agenda of the region. The abnormal gap between rich and poor, characteristic of Latin America, is now being filled and thereby socio political stabilty is being established. Latin America is now moving towards the next post-ideological stage with pragmatic leaders who are finding the balance with the right mix of pro-poor and pro-business policies. This is the basis for my optimism for a stable and prosperous Latin America in the long term.

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