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Friday, December 05, 2008

How will Cuba Receive Soderbergh's Che?

By Circles Robinson

Benicio del Toro is heading for Havana, Cuba this weekend to be at the screening of the Steven Soderbergh film about Ernesto “Che” Guevarra, the role played by the Oscar-winning actor.

Che (1928-1967) is everywhere in Cuba: on billboards, in numerous documentaries, songs, on three-peso coins and T-shirts. Factories, work collectives, and museums bear his name. His ideas and feats, from his university days in Buenos Aires, his time as a Cuban government minister, to his death in Bolivia, are still front-page news at different times throughout the year in Cuban newspapers.

Che is revered by government leaders, much of the general citizenry, as well as by people who see in him ideals they think have been sidetracked over 50 years of the ups and downs of revolution.

My seven-year-old grandson calls Che his brother, and has wept over the fact he was killed. “Why did the good guy die so young,” he has asked me? Axel, like most Cuban grade school children, says he “wants to be like Che,” considered an icon of altruism, revolutionary commitment and perseverance, values instilled in the Cuban educational system.

A few years ago the full-length film Motorcycle Diaries -by Brazilian director Walter Salles about Che’s motorcycle trip through South America in the early 1950s- was well received by just about everyone on the island who saw it. It played nationwide at movie theaters and had several TV showings.

When the Havana Film Festival (Dec. 2-12) agreed to hold a special showing of Soderbergh’s production, the anti-Cuba foreign press speculated that it must have received former President Fidel Castro’s approval in order to be shown.

What the media didn’t mention is that the Cuban Film Institute (ICIAC) has screened many controversial films at its annual festivals that do not necessarily support aspects of the Cuban Revolution or the country’s system of government.

Del Toro won the best-actor prize for his role as Che at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where the movie premiered.

The four-hour film was made in two parts, “The Argentine” and “Guerilla,” and was shot in Spain and Bolivia, where Che was captured and executed under CIA orders in 1967.

Accompanying Del Toro on his trip to Havana is actor Rodrigo Santoro, who plays Cuba’s current president Raul Castro in the film. Reuters reported that whether Soderbergh would make an appearance in Havana was still unclear; noting the Bush administration’s travel ban could keep him away.

For photos and more articles on the Havana Film Festival and follow up on the showing of the Soderbergh film check out:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel it is very important to realize that the film was incredibly one-sided. We don't hear the stories of Guevara's innocent victims - those killed extra-judicially simply for being perceived as "anti-revolutionary." Nor do we hear of the way in which Guevara preached fiery anti-establishment rhetoric while wearing a rolex and living at the incredibly plush "Tarara" mansion he had plundered after the success of the revolution in Cuba.

Many see what they want to see in Che - that is to say - the fighter for "the people." What we don't always see is a bit murkier - the voices silenced without judicial review, 15 year old boys executed with .45 caliber bullets at La Cabana fortress, the shattered lives of innocents.

It's not all so black and white and I don't believe we serve the common good when we turn a blind eye to the darker side of history. Innocent lives lost should be remembered. Che's memory was far from rosy and just. At times he may have been perceived as a champion of the people, but the methods employed in order to win that moniker are far from ideal or just.

Thank you for allowing commentary.



10:50 AM  

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