Che- Part One

Che is a two-part film about the life of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, especially his role in the Cuban Revolution. The first part documents mostly the actual fighting and insurgency that would eventually oust the Cuban Government and install Fidel Castro. The film also jumps around in time, flashing both to before Che’s arrival in Cuba, and after the success of the Revolution when he is addressing the United Nations in New York. The character of Che is different from his portrayal in The Motorcycle Dairies, in Che Guevara has aged from his youthful idealism and has adopted a more pragmatic, if sometimes cruel, approach in order to achieve his goals.

Much of the film portrays the guerrilla warfare used by Che and others against the Cuban government. Che himself was an expert on this style of fighting, writing “Guerrilla warfare: A method.” In this guerrilla warfare is defined as a war of the people that is only capable of success if the population supports it. This is shown time and time again in the film, as Che’s forces are small and often ill equipped, yet people continue to show up and try and join their cause. Often times these people are turned down due to a lack of a gun to give them. Another interesting part of the movie was Che and Fidel’s insistence that those who join up with their insurgency be capable of reading. This is explained in the film as part of Che’s political ideology that believes that a population incapable of reading is easy to trick and keep under control. In his explanation of guerrilla warfare, Che asks what loyalty can be asked of them if they are merely an instrument of domination for the reactionary classes and imperialist monopolies. This is surprising not in that it would be in a political essay written by Che, but that he would ardently believe and practice it. Che has to be talked into reluctantly accept two young boys into his force because both are so young and illiterate. It is this odd paradox between being a revolution leader capable of savage acts of violence, and a man driven by a sincere belief that people should be equal and respect under the law.

In his “Message to the Tricontinental,” Guevara lays out his argument against the United States and other nations he deems to be imperialistic repressers. Che states, “We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centers of entertainment; a total war.” This is what he does in the film, both in Cuba and in America when he goes on television to do interviews. For the purposes of the film itself, the interviews get to show Che in a different dynamic than when he is fighting in the jungles, but it also allows him to address America and Americans themselves on their political ideology. What Che is talking about in his messages is the idea that their are two competing forces in the world that will inevitable clash, and it is in everyone’s best interest to be on his side in the conflict, or a “true proletarian internationalism” as he calls it. This shows a significant evolution in the character of Che, as initially in the movie he only wanted to spread the revolution to other parts of South America. And while Che would do this in Bolivia where he would eventually be killed, this address hints that Guevara’s presence in the Congo would not have been his last campaign outside of Latin America had he lived. Once he landed in Cuba, Che would never want to stop leading the fight for communism.