Yes, it’s long. OK, now that we’ve gotten past
that, we can talk about the movie. Benicio
Del Toro converts the diaries of Ernesto “Che” Gueverra into a
detailed account of the life of a revolutionary, in an era, not that long ago,
when a man with a rifle in the jungle could still change the world.
The narrative switches back and forth between the earliest days of
recruiting peasant soldiers in remote villages to addressing the U.N. ten
years later, but still, the themes are similar: the
government mistreats the common people. There is no
available medical coverage, wages are pitiful, most villagers cannot read or
write, and too many survive on a subsistence living, to which their children
are inevitably doomed, as well. Ernesto Gueverra is an
Argentinean doctor with high ideals for a just society, but practical enough
to know that socialist speeches will not change the government. Only
having a viable force in the field will insure the success of a revolution.
Of course, George Washington said the same thing. But
he’s our hero, and Che, well, he is sanctified or vilified, depending on
political point of view. But few are neutral about the
charismatic foreigner on whom Fidel
Castro implicitly depended, along with his brother, Raul.
Because we do have so much time to explore the details of Che’s life
in this two-part film, we can slog through the day-to-day skirmishes, the
training of raw recruits, and Che the physician’s constant attention to the
medical needs of those around him, recognizing that the war would ultimately
be won not with superior military
forces, but in capturing the minds and hearts of a people, so that the
corrupt government would simply collapse of its own arrogance and greed.
They were notably successful in Cuba
. But, of course, after the romance of guerilla
warfare was over, they had a country to run. Fidel
took on the role of Dictator with relish, but Che grew increasingly restless,
convinced that in order to be a real revolutionary, he had to help yet another
impoverished people with their political struggle. He chose
Bolivia , a country with a strong military, and, perhaps more significantly,
political ties with the United States . Things were
different in Bolivia . Gueverra was considered a foreign
interloper, a Communist organizer, who couldn’t even successfully ally with
the other rebels (a significant contribution of Castro in the early days of
the Cuban revolution).
Che’s ragtag forces were constantly hounded by a trained military
with superior weaponry along with American advisors who were Vietnam
veterans, and well versed in guerilla tactics. The
peasants, suffering reprisals whenever they helped the rebels, soon turned
against them, and the jungle fighters were undernourished as well as
undersupplied and underarmed. But Che died the way he
lived, putting his life on the line for a cause that he believed in.
He leaves behind a legacy of the romantic revolutionary, articulate and
well-educated, willing to forsake his comfort, and risk his well-being, for
his convictions. Whether he’s a martyred saint or a
seditionist criminal depends on your point of view. But
either way, Del Toro brings Che to life for a new generation.
Questions For Discussion:
Why are some revolutions successful and others
How was George
Washington different, and similar, to Che
Do you favor the normalization of relations
between the United States and Cuba ?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace
Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas