Che reminds us why we fight

For months I couldn’t wait to finally see Steven Soderbergh’s four-hour, two-part epic “Che” about the heroic victories and military defeats of revolutionary guerilla fighter Ernesto Guevara.

As a youth the iconic image of Che was all too common in my household. But it wasn’t until college that I really learned about his life and writings when I checked out a thick book at my campus library. I remember being blown away by this book about a man who had so much audacity, passion, courage and intelligence to speak out against injustice and especially against what I later understood as U.S. imperialism. Che’s writings and speeches were one of my first literary lessons in understanding Marxism and the Cuban revolution. I immediately felt the urge to join the fight for social justice, equality, humanity and bold radical change.

Reading about the history of the Cuban revolution and the life of Che had a real impact in my life and culminated in my first trip to Cuba in 1997, which further radicalized my belief in social justice. I remember coming back to the U.S. fired up and inspired like never before and eager to play a part in helping to change the world into a better place for all.

The film stars Benicio Del Toro as Che and is entirely in Spanish. The first part details Che’s life as a medical doctor in Cuba who then becomes a military commander under Fidel Castro during the Cuban revolution. The movie outlines Che’s military battles and ends triumphantly. The second part begins with Che as a Cuban statesman addressing the United Nations. Later, viewers get a first hand account of Che’s failed attempt to spark an armed uprising in Bolivia. Both films capture Che as a guerilla leader in battle, in victory, then in defeat. More importantly, each scene personifies the humanity in Che and his undying principles as a leader toward his comrades in arms.

For me, the film portrays how people, even during times of war and distress, should act toward one another as brothers and sisters when struggling to build a new man and a new society. For many the life of Che reminds us why we fight for change today. Our commitment for peace and justice binds us together and we know that our passion as freedom fighters is guided by true feelings of love.

The films are not action packed and can be slow at times. But I found the quiet and still moments throughout the films as well as the relationships Che builds with his troops to be the most fascinating. Del Toro illustrates a deeper emotion of Che and tells a story of a man committed to higher moral standards and an understanding of what men and women should strive for when fighting for socialist values. And although there are many opinions about Che’s tactical, strategic and theoretical approach to fighting for change, Soderbergh attempts to show the human connection Che had with those closest to him at the time.

In a recent interview published on huffingtonpost.com Del Toro said, “Some people say we just glorified him and made him into a super hero. But I think we just made him human.” Del Toro added, “To play Che you just have to understand what he stood for.”

Looking at Cuba-U.S. relations today Del Toro noted, “The embargo doesn’t make any sense. But it is real. It is something Cubans have to deal with everyday. The embargo creates an atmosphere of still being at war, from the Cuban point of view. I feel for the Cuban people. It is amazing how Cuba has been able to stick it out.”

Hopefully the film will bring current issues afloat said Del Toro especially relations between Cuba and the U.S. and between the U.S. and Latin America.

“Issues such as poverty, lack of a middle class, lack of education, lack of medicines and food,” he said.

Del Toro won the prestigious Goya award for “best actor” in Spain and won an award in the same category at the Cannes Film Festival last May.

plozano@pww.org

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