Young Che, in his insistent honesty, rebels against these strictures, and his rebellion is bracing to witness. And the masochistic allure of those statues is precisely what you see in the movie's many depictions of young Che coughing out his lungs from asthma and testing himself by swimming in cold water—all of which is rendered beautiful and alluring by a sensual backdrop of grays and browns and greens, and the lovely gaunt cheeks of one actor after another, and the violent Andean landscapes. He achieved nothing but disaster. I hope that Rivero will forgive me for my translation. This is what our soldiers must become …"— and so on. And these insurgencies likewise accomplished nothing, except to bring about the death of hundreds of thousands, and to set back the cause of Latin-American democracy—a tragedy on the hugest scale. A vagabond tour of South America Advertisement The film follows the young Che and his friend Alberto Granado on a vagabond tour of South America in —which Che described in a book published under the title Motorcycle Diaries, and Granado in a book of his own. You think you are observing a noble protest against the oppressive customs and authoritarian habits of an obscurantist Catholic Church at its most reactionary.
Che presided over the Cuban Revolution's first firing squads. You think you are observing a noble protest against the oppressive customs and authoritarian habits of an obscurantist Catholic Church at its most reactionary. Yet the entire movie, in its concept and tone, exudes a Christological cult of martyrdom, a cult of adoration for the spiritually superior person who is veering toward death—precisely the kind of adoration that Latin America's Catholic Church promoted for several centuries, with miserable consequences. Some Peruvian Marxist texts duly appear on the screen. The rebellion against reactionary Catholicism in this movie is itself an expression of reactionary Catholicism. And yet he succeeded in inspiring tens of thousands of middle class Latin-Americans to exit the universities and organize guerrilla insurgencies of their own. Many of the early leaders of the Cuban Revolution favored a democratic or democratic-socialist direction for the new Cuba. Che was a medical student in those days, and Granado a biochemist, and in real life, as in the movie, the two men spent a few weeks toiling as volunteers in a Peruvian leper colony. But the film is considerably more ideological, keen on expressing an "indigenist" attitude to use the Latin-American Marxist term of sympathy for the Indians and hostility to the conquistadors. Dissident liberals have demanded fundamental human rights, and the dictatorship has rounded up all but one or two of the dissident leaders and sentenced them to many years in prison. But Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won. Che was a totalitarian. The diaries tend to be haphazard and nonideological except for a very few passages. These weeks at the leper colony constitute the dramatic core of the movie. And thus it is in Salles' Motorcycle Diaries. Advertisement The modern-day cult of Che blinds us not just to the past but also to the present. I hope that Rivero will forgive me for my translation. A group of American librarians has extended its solidarity to its Cuban colleagues, but, in order to do so, the American librarians have had to put up a fight within their own librarians' organization, where the Castro dictatorship still has a number of sympathizers. I wonder if people who stand up to cheer a hagiography of Che Guevara, as the Sundance audience did, will ever give a damn about the oppressed people of Cuba—will ever lift a finger on behalf of the Cuban liberals and dissidents. It has already received a standing ovation at Robert Redford's Sundance film festival Redford is the executive producer of The Motorcycle Diaries and glowing admiration in the press. The traditional churches of Latin America are full of statues of gruesome bleeding saints. As a protest against the ovation at Sundance, I would like to append one of Rivero's poems to my comment here. These Cuban events have attracted the attention of a number of intellectuals and liberals around the world. The movie in its story line sticks fairly close to Che's diaries, with a few additions from other sources. The days when American intellectuals rallied in any significant way to the cause of liberal dissidents in other countries, the days when Havel's statements were regarded by Americans as important calls for intellectual responsibility—those days appear to be over.
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