Che Part 1: The Argentine follows Ernesto “Che” Guevara through the revolution in Cuba from 1956 to 1959. The film also contains scenes from the early 1960s where Guevara is addressing the UN. This film appears to give an acurate portrayal of Guevara’s revolutionary and guerrilla ideology. It depicts the struggle of the revolutionary forces as they first land in Cuba through to the successful overthrow of the Batista Regime.
The majority of the film focuses on the guerrilla warfare of the July 26th Movement specifically focused on Guevara’s involvement and actions during the revolution. The progression of the July 26th Movement as depicted in the film aligns closely with the ” … three stages of guerrilla warfare or liberation warfare …” as told in Guerrilla Warfare: A Method. The first stage is one primarily of defense with some tactical attacks on the enemy. In this stage, the revolutionary forces are small and must attack then retreat to slowly weaken the larger military force. Second comes a stage of “equilibrium” where both sides are equally capable of offensive and defensive at any given time. The third stage occurs when the revolutionary force is capable of overtaking larger towns and cities leading to the defeat of the enemy (paragraph 50). The film depicts the evolution of the revolution as following these stages. Initially, Guevara and his comrades spend more time hiding from Batista’s army than engaging them. During this time, strategic attacks on the army do occur. The second stage is depicted when the revolutionary forces gain strength and establish bases from which to fight. The third stage begins as the fight moves from the rural areas and into the urban settings as the July 26th Movement marches toward Havana and victory.
Another important part of guerrila warfare is explored in the film as Guevara’s interactions with the rural population is depicted. For a guerrilla war to be successful, it must be a “political-military action” (Guerrilla Warfare, paragraph 47). The support of the masses must be gained. One example of this in the film is Guevara executing members of his force for attacks on the local population. Guevara is not merely a gun-toting soldier, but a politcal figure working to gain support for the July 26th Movement. His medical treatment of the rural people he encounters and the educating of those joining the fight are also solid examples of political warfare against the Batista regime.
The political ideology of Guevara is also accurately depicted in the scenes where he addresses the UN. His hate of the United States as an imperial power is very clear. His pan-Latin American revolutionary ideology is evident also and backed by his 1967 message to the Tricontinental. In this message, the ideology is expanded to include three developing continents: Latin America, Africa and Asia. His stance remains the same for all three and uses the conflict in Vietnam as an example of how a nation can fight against imperialism, specifically the United States (paragraphs 15-20). His speech to the UN in the film carries some of the same tones as he stands firm on the actions of the July 26th Movement and challenges leaders of other Latin American nations.
While the film appears to be accurate in its portrayal of the actions of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his ideology regarding imperialism, it is limited in scope as a historical film with relation to the Cuban Revolution. It merely depicts Guevara’s “view” of the revolution and not the entire revolution itself. It is successful in portraying guerrilla warfare during the revolution.