Pin It

DVD Review 

by Michael Bowen

The Motorcycle Diaries is a road trip movie that veers off escapist highways onto more committed paths. It's a rite of passage into Communism: the story of how Ernesto transformed himself into Che.

In 1952, Ernesto Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) was a middle-class med school student in Buenos Aires, 23 and fed up with the corruption of Peronismo (as depicted in Evita). As an Argentinean with a strong sense of international Hispanic identity, he's been taught more about the history of Europe than about his own Latin American culture. What better way to remedy ignorance than to hop on a motorbike with Alberto Granado (the mischievous, irrepressible Rodrigo de la Serna) and see Chile, Bolivia and Peru firsthand?

The strength of the Diaries lies in its subtle portrayal of small steps in the ascent to consciousness-raising. Ernesto befriends workers desperate to get day-work at a copper mine, then lashes out at a foreman's callous disregard. He talks with a Peruvian peasant, kicked off his land but still in solidarity with other subsistence farmers. He cruises up the Amazon, only to notice that trailing behind is a shanty boat stuffed with destitute laborers dangling from hammocks. Volunteering at a leper colony, Che lives up to his nickname (Argentine slang for "buddy") by treating patients as humans not freaks. The two companions' discovery of Machu Picchu, as rendered in Eric Gautier's gloomy, dramatic cinematography, ignites Guevara's awareness of the indigenous culture that predated the corrupting Spaniards. In the development of Che, in other words, there's no single Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment.

The highlight of this disc's special features is a visit with the real Granado, now in his 80s, a retired physician in Havana who still reveres his friend. "When I have doubts," he says, "I don't ask myself what my wife or Fidel might say. I ask myself what Ernesto would say." It's the Cuban revolutionaries' WWJD moment.

Che was shot by the Bolivian army (with CIA connivance, or worse) in October 1967. But the Diaries remain rooted in his experiences of 15 years before. They don't record Che as architect of failed revolutions in the Congo and Bolivia, or Che as the hard-liner who admired Stalin and had people executed. What they record is the birth of youthful idealism. In an era when U.S. imperialism is debated worldwide, Che Guevara should mean more to all of us than just a photo plastered on a T-shirt.

Publication date: 03/10/05

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Token Democracy
  • Token Democracy

    Would letting Washington voters give taxpayer money to politicians reduce the power of interest groups — or just subsidize politicians?
    • Oct 20, 2016

    Breaking down some of the issues you'll get to vote on this year
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Shea's World
  • Shea's World

    As Matt Shea seeks re-election, his presence may be felt more in other local races than in his own
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Lion's Club Train Rides

Lion's Club Train Rides @ Ione

Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through Oct. 23

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Michael Bowen

Most Commented On

  • The Do-Over

    After failing to pass a bus service tax hike last year, Spokane Transit Authority has a plan to get you to vote for it again
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • Pants on Fire

    U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers can't see the forest for the trees when it comes to climate change
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

election 2016


green zone


trail mix

Readers also liked…

  • The Virtue of Renee
  • The Virtue of Renee

    After a homeless woman was run over while sleeping outdoors, her family grapples with the events that led her there
    • Mar 11, 2015
  • The Price of Progress
  • The Price of Progress

    Why the Spokane Tribe says it's still owed for Grand Coulee Dam
    • Apr 1, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation