Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Part One: The Argentine written by Peter Buchman and Benjamin A. Van Der Veen
Part Two: Guerrilla written by Peter Buchman
Silence is argument carried out by other means.
There is a silent fragment of a scene in Guerrilla, the second part of Steven Soderbergh’s epic cinematic experience, Che that is very telling. Che Guevara, portrayed brilliantly by Benicio Del Toro, is trying to motivate a group of reluctant Bolivian peasants to join him in overthrowing their own government, but most of them are not buying it. Mario Monje, portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips, one of only a handful of recognizable actors in this film, has also heard enough politics and leaves. Someone suggests that maybe democracy could work. Silence. In this group is a dead ringer for a young Evo Morales, the indigenous President of Bolivia, who recently won a recall election with 67.4% of the vote.
This is one of the few political messages that Soderbergh leaves even a trace of his own fingerprints on.
Last October, Che’s death was marked, in the Bolivian village where he was killed, by President Morales proclaiming his own political movement to be “100% Guevarist and socialist.”
The CIA may have killed the man, but his ideas have lived on, especially in South America today.
I attended Che-stock (4 ½ hours in length) at its Los Angeles premiere Saturday night at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Red carpet, bright lights, flashing cameras, movie stars – the works. After a short speech by the president of the AFI, Steven Soderbergh spoke to the audience humorously about his non-Che-like ride to the theatre in an Audi (one of the sponsors for the festival). Benicio Del Toro (Best Actor at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) then spoke briefly and thanked many others, including producer Laura Bickford.
The first part of Che, entitled "The Argentine," is sharp, energetic, visceral and historic. It covers the meeting of the Argentinean doctor Ernesto “Che” Guevara with Fidel Castro as well as, many of the battle scenes and training that provided the framework for the Cuban revolution from 1956-1959 ending with the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista.
These detailed military actions have very rarely been depicted in dramatic cinema. Here for the first time we see through Soderbergh’s cinéma vérité style what it would have been like for the Fidelistas to liberate village after village while gathering the support they needed to take their revolution into Havana. In December of 1958, we see Che leading his “suicide squad” in the attack on Santa Clara.