Film Review: Che (part one and two)

For example, there is no depiction of the conflicting politics within the revolutionary movement, beyond a few cursory references to squabbles over land reforms. More fundamental ideological rifts such as between those in the hills and those in the city, who were heavily influenced by Spanish anarcho-syndicalism, are not dealt with. It is, after all, easier to romanticize the revolutionary guerrilla than the working class activists who attempted to organize against Batista throughout the dictatorship or even the soldiers mutinies.  Similarly, there is a sense of relative cohesion in the 26th July movement behind the leadership of Fidel and his commandant’s. The historical reality of nationalists, communists and even anarchists, each with their own priorities, in Cuba’s jungles escapes the simplicity of the films portrayal of the revolutionary period.
Arguably the most important era for Che’s politics, post-revolutionary Cuba, likewise is absent from the wider narrative. Perhaps this was an editorial choice made in the face of the huge amount of history to the man’s life and the need to cater to a wider movie audience.  A director clearly has to prioritize the action and drama of guerrilla struggle for a film budget that clearly can’t cater for the independent circuit alone.  But this period was in fact incredibly interesting, both for Che and in the history of Cuba. There are numerous themes that could have been explored here – the rifts with Castro, Che’s personal life (he reportedly suffered two nervous breakdowns following his return from Congo), the bay of pigs and betrayal of nationalist generals, the crackdown on political dissidents – including many of Cuba’s anarchists who still live in exile. Overall, there is a sense that Soderbergh is unwilling to incorporate the darker side of Che’s legacy – the authoritarian character of his politics, his relationship with Mao and the Soviet powers and, most importantly, his place in founding the political dictatorship that exists in Cuba to date.

In all a well crafted account of the public history of a highly influential political figure that unfortunately falls short in really getting to grips with the man behind that famous t-shirt print.

For more history on the Cuban revolution and Che –  
Saint Che: The Truth Behind the Legend of the Heroic Guerrilla Ernesto Che Guevara, L. Gambone

Cuban Anarchism,. F. Fernandez

Cuba, the Anarchists and Liberty, F.Fernandez

The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Perspective, S. Dolgoff