Communist Party of Australia


The Guardian

Current Issue

PDF Archive

Web Archive


Press Fund


About Us

Why you should ...

CPA introduction

CPA Policies

CPA statements

Contact Us

facebook, twitter

Major Issues





Climate Change



What's On







Issue #1430      30 September 2009

Film review by Richard Titelius

Che (Part One) The Argentine
Che (Part Two) Guerrilla

According to the notes accompanying the release of the movie there were seven years of research and filming undertaken to make these movies of the life of Che which comes in at just over four hours.

Upon seeing the movie one is struck by the efforts taken to present a historically accurate, passionate and compelling rendition of the life of arguably the world’s most iconic revolutionary.

The movie received its world premier at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2008, for which Benicio Del Toro received the award for Best Actor for the colourful, engaging and serious portrayal of the Argentine physician who went on to lead the Cuban revolution with Fidel Castro in the 1950s.

The movie has gone on to receive mixed reviews around the world where the first world bourgeois media feels compelled to acknowledge the icon’s enduring legacy in front of the rest of the world, while also pandering to those who support its capitalist interests which Che fearlessly denounced on their own soil and in front of their own institutions.

The movie played to mild protests from Cuban expatriates at its opening in Miami and on the other side of the Florida Straits a few days later in November 2008, the movie played to a strong ovation, according to the Cuban paper Granma.

The movie starts with the auspicious meeting of Fidel Castro (Mexican actor Demian Bichir) and Ernesto “Che” Guevara in the home of a Cuban friend in Mexico City in July 1955.

The movie follows in tone and sentiment with 2004’s The Motorcycle Diaries which traced the journey of the young Che Guevara with his friend Alberto Granado from Argentina, through Chile and Peru and eventually to Venezuela. It was on this trip that the young Che saw the harsh conditions and exploitation under which many people lived in the Latin continent and awoke in him the fierce desire to change the material conditions under which the people lived.

Director Steven Soderburgh’s Che then passes from Mexico City to the southern shores of Cuba via the good ship Granma and on to the mountains of Sierra Maestra where the revolutionaries scored their first significant victories.

Part I deviates to grainy black and white film to the occasion in 1964 when Che visited the United States and gave an interview to the US media and delivered a passionate and fiery speech to the UN General Assembly on the resolve of the Cuban people.

The movie has its strong portrayals of battle with the armed forces of the government of Fulgencio Batista. These battles do not glorify war or violence in any way. But they do show that a people who want justice, liberty and a better life must be prepared to fight those who will use violence, including torture and other deprivations, to resist the struggle of the people for a better life.

The movie contrasts with the texture of the usual Hollywood movies about the wars fought in the interests of capital where the protagonists of the conflicts and its soldiers have little interest in bringing freedom, justice and a better life to the lands where the wars are fought.

In this sense Che the movie is the antithesis of most war movies (the wars of imperialism) where the protagonists are usually seen engaged in destruction, exploiting women and messing up themselves. Che makes it clear that revolutionaries can retreat at certain times tactically if they are not ready or able to continue, and that they are given explicit instructions about the rules of engagement in relation to the masses and the consequences for transgression which can include death. The revolutionaries also take care of the wounded of their enemy as well as their own.

The first part of the movie was shot in Cuba itself and the actors in the smaller part are peppered with the accents of Indigenous Cuban actors. The vegetation and buildings in the towns and countryside brought to mind my recent visit to Cuba, along with the old yet immaculately kept US cars from the late 1940s and 1950s which adorn the set in the urban scenes. Part II is shot in Bolivia and Spain.

Part I of the movie concludes as the revolutionaries, buoyed by their victory in Santa Clara, head on to the final victory in Havana. If the tone of this Part I is predominantly upbeat as one knows the outcome of the Cuban Revolution, the tone of the second part is grim and forbidding though still engaging, as is the enigma that surrounds much of this period of Che’s life when he withdrew from his posts in Cuba and went to Bolivia.

He went there ostensibly to start the liberation of South America where the oppression and contradictions were at their greatest. The colour and setting are more austere in Bolivia in line with the tone or theme of this part of Che’s life.

Though Fidel Castro had advised his comrade and friend against going to Bolivia as the timing was not right, and to wait for things to calm down, it was Che who said to Fidel in Mexico at the start of their adventures together that if the Cuban campaign was successful he did not want to be stopped from taking the revolution to Argentina and Bolivia.

However, almost as soon as he got there he found that he did not have the support of the Bolivian Communist Party. The film follows the errors and disappointments of the Bolivian campaign, as Che and his Bolivian, Cuban and other Latin American revolutionaries find their mission becoming increasingly compromised. The complicity of the USA which feared another revolution in Bolivia similar to Cuba, is featured in the movie and includes a special appearance by high profile Hollywood actor Matt Damon as a negotiator.

The end of the movie is tense, dramatic and unpredictable though not the typical Hollywood fare, notwithstanding that this is a Hollywood movie.

Though Che the revolutionary and freedom fighter had an ignoble end without seeing his dream of a revolution coming to Bolivia, ironically 40 years later, it would be a native from Bolivia, Evo Morales and the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), who would herald in a better world for the majority of Bolivians and remember Che during that struggle.

Next articleHonduras: Attacks on Brazilian embassy

Back to index page

Go to What's On Go to Shop at CPA Go to Australian Marxist Review Go to Join the CPA Go to Subscribe to the Guardian Go to the CPA Maritime Branch website Go to the Resources section of our web site Go to the PDF of the Hot Earth booklet go to the World Federation of Trade Unions web site go to the Solidnet  web site Go to Find out more about the CPA