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Film / Che

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Che is a 2008 film directed by Steven Soderbergh about the life of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, based on his memoirs. It stars Benicio del Toro as Che, alongside Demián Bichir as Fidel Castro, Rodrigo Santoro as Raul Castro, and many others.

The film is divided into two parts. The first covers the entirety of the Cuban Revolution, from Che's first meeting with Castro in exile in Mexico, to Batista fleeing Havana. This is inter-cut and framed by Che's time in New York surrounding his 1964 speech at the United Nations, with specific attention given to his interview with Lisa Howard.

The second part covers the last year of Che's life, as he attempts to start another revolution in Bolivia.

The film premiered at Cannes, where del Toro received the award for best actor.

The film provides examples of:

  • The Cameo:
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: Camilo Cienfuegos nicknames a Cuban revolutionary "Ventrílocuo" (ventriloquist), but the revolutionary mistakes the word for a made-up insult: ventre-culo (culo means "ass"). Che quickly corrects him.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The New York scenes.
  • Epic Movie: Larger-than-life historical subject, shot on-location, cast of thousands, four-and-a-half hour run-time. It definitely qualifies.
  • A Father to His Men: Although Che is a very stern taskmaster of a leader who demands only the best from his troops, all of the guerrillas under Che's command regard him extremely positively, and he in turn cares for them deeply.
  • Foil: Mario Monje is a perfect inverse to the icon of guerilla revolution of Che. Monje comes in with a sweater and slacks, seemingly much more comfortable for an armchair debate about communism to capitalism. In contrast Che is in boots and combat fatigues and is prepared for an armed struggle.
  • The Fundamentalist: The End of Part One reveals that Che has always been such as when he first met Castro he agrees to join him on the condition that after they are victorious in Cuba he will support him bring the Revolution to the world.
  • Icon of Rebellion: Che's status as a symbol of the Cuban Revolution and rebellion in general is discussed with Lisa Howard.
    Howard: How does it feel to be a symbol?
    Guevara: A symbol of what?
    Howard: Of the revolution.
  • The Last DJ: While he never expresses this belief himself, the second part of the film seems to imply that Guevara is the only one of the Cuban revolutionaries who stayed true to his ideals, rather than become just another government bureaucrat. Of particular note is a sequence which cuts from Fidel Castro having an extravagant birthday party in Havana to Che marching through the rainforests of Bolivia.
  • The Noodle Incident: Several references are made to Che's venture into the Congo but little mention of it from Che himself.
  • Oblivious to Love: Seemingly, Che meets Aleida March during the Cuban Revolution. She obviously is attracted to him but he seems to not be super interested, casually mentioning towards the end of the Revolution that he's married and has a daughter. But then cut to Part Two, Che and Aleida are married and have four kids together.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized:
    • In his speech at the UN, Che makes absolutely no bones about the fact that he oversaw the executions of former members of the Batista regime and others suspected of conspiring against the Castro government. That said, he is shown refusing to engage in summary executions, insisting that they be brought before a tribunal first.
    • When the head of the Bolivian Communist Party tells Che that the time is not right for an armed struggle, Che responds that imperialism will never be defeated peacefully, and that violence is the only path towards freedom.
  • Stern Teacher: Che, to the guerrillas under him. He insists that they all learn to read and write, believing it will make them more effective revolutionaries.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Both revolutions are plagued by this, with various opposition groups of differing constituencies and ideologies butting heads. In Cuba, they are able to overcome the infighting to bring down Batista. In Bolivia, they aren't.
    • In Cuba, the conflict is between the urban movement and the rural movement. They both oppose Batista, but the urban movement favors a general strike and is for labor reform but not land reform, while the rural movement, led by Fidel Castro, believes that Batista must be brought down through guerrilla warfare, and are in favor of both labor and land reform. Ultimately, the urban movement agrees to join with Castro after their attempt at a general strike is put down.
    • In Bolivia, the Bolivian Communist Party outright refuses to support Che's call for an armed struggle, saying that the time is not right and they need to build a political base first. Che suspects that this is an excuse, and that the Soviet Union, who by this point regarded Che as a rogue agent, ordered the Communist Party not to help. Meanwhile locals suspect Che is simply a puppet for Castro and this is not truly a Bolivian movement. Che and his band end up fighting the government of René Barrientos alone.