Che (Part 1)

Che Part One, a 2008 Steven Soderbergh film, follows the life of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in his time as a revolutionary and afterward. The film depicts two specific time periods - Guevara’s journey during the Cuban Revolution and then the years afterward in which he gave addresses against American imperialism and showed support toward moving the revolution throughout the rest of Latin America. Guevara’s revolutionary history plays in a flashback-like form, serving to give context and credence to his later convictions.

The Guevara depicted in Che Part One is a grittier, more stalwart character than was portrayed in The Motorcycle Diaries. He is shown as an apt strategist, a fiery soldier, and a leader who was politically wise, moral, diplomatic, and ultimately unwavering. His flaws, down to his asthma are downplayed or outright ignored. This serves to build him up as the”Che” Guevera , a symbolic hero. In truth, before his meeting with Castro in Mexico, Guevera was vastly unconcerned with revolution and politics. Bored with married life and struggling as an underpaid medical researcher, Guevera’s time was mostly spent traveling and in isolated contemplation (Zolov).

Guevera is portrayed as an experienced soldier, highlighting his skill at both planning and carrying out guerilla warfare.  The film follows the three full stages of a successful guerilla campaign as outlined by Guevera himself. In the initial strategic defense, Guevera and additional troops make light attacks and retreat, such as the assault on the army barracks. As the fighting advances, the revolutionary army has grown and becomes more vulnerable, culminating in an assault on their base. In the final stage of fighting, the guerilla army has garnered enough support and numbers to overrun the opposition and thus are able to capture Santa Clara.

Guevera also took the moral and diplomatic needs of the campaign seriously. He insists the members of his group be educated in both reading and writing as well as mathematical skills. Throughout the film, he makes a point to meet all of the peasants the army encounters. He hears their concerns and works to make sure the army does nothing to bring harm to the peasants. The necessity for this is outlined in Guevera’s Guerilla Warfare: A Method, “The peasants’ aspirations or demands must be satisfied to the degree and in the form that circumstances permit so as to bring about the decisive support and solidarity of the whole population…If a single military error can liquidate the guerrilla, a political error can hold back its development for long periods.”