Tuesday, January 04, 2005


The Motorcycle Diaries

My wife and I, as many do, put a priority on movies we choose to see. Seeing first those movies that are quality movies and then movies we might not choose to see because of the subject matter, but believe the Acadamy will consider nominating for an award. Last night we chose to see a movie in the later category, The Motorcycle Diaries. Shawn Levy of The Oregonian had it in his top five movies for 2004.

I recall a Slate article saying don't see the movie because it celebrates a man "Che" Guevera that killed many in the Cuban Revolution.
We see a lot of movies, at least one a week in theaters plus the ones we rent. Both of us came away from this movie wondering what the fuss was all about. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, I gave it a 7, my wife may have rated it slightly higher, but certainly not as good as many we've seen. The "cinematography" was ok. Some of the scenes of the Andes were breathtaking, but so much more was the movie about the mountain climbers in Chile, Touching the Void.

So much of this movie was filmed to look like it was filmed in 1952, a faded sepia tone. Much more could have been shown of Machu Pichu in Peru. Much more could have been shown comparing the wall of stones built by the Incas and the In-capable Spanish who came and conquered. The writings of Che were very good, lyric in fact and Che comes across as an honest, empathetic young man who was changed by his 12,000 mile journey, as would anyone of us taking this journey or any other, into the unknown. He was struck by how much the people from Argentina to Venuzuela resembled each other from their "mestizo" ancestry to their poverty. It moved him to dream of a united Latin America as was the United States of America.

The movie could have answered some of my questions:
1)How did he know at 23 that he had very little risk of catching Leprosy?
2)How did he know that he could swim across the Amazon and not be eaten by Piranha?
3)How did a young sweet boy become what Slate warned about emulating?

Here are the opening words of the Slate article The Cult of Che written by Paul Berman, who puts his leftist credentials on the line (A former MacArthur fellow and a contributing editor to the New Republic):

The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster. Many of the early leaders of the Cuban Revolution favored a democratic or democratic-socialist direction for the new Cuba. But Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won. Che presided over the Cuban Revolution's first firing squads. He founded Cuba's "labor camp" system—the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims. To get himself killed, and to get a lot of other people killed, was central to Che's imagination. In the famous essay in which he issued his ringing call for "two, three, many Vietnams," he also spoke about martyrdom and managed to compose a number of chilling phrases: "Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become …"— and so on. He was killed in Bolivia in 1967, leading a guerrilla movement that had failed to enlist a single Bolivian peasant.
If you read the complete article, you will learn the Cuba liberal dissidents are waging a struggle demanding fundamental human rights and have been imprisoned for many years. One serving a 20-year sentence is Raúl Rivero, a poet. Berman goes on to say
I wonder if people who stand up to cheer a hagiography of Che Guevara, as the Sundance audience did, will ever give a damn about the oppressed people of Cuba—will ever lift a finger on behalf of the Cuban liberals and dissidents. It's easy in the world of film to make a movie about Che, but who among that cheering audience is going to make a movie about Raúl Rivero?

And that is my biggest criticism of The Motorcycle Diaries. Hollywood has made a movie about "Che" and it made a movie about the Bolshevik Revolution (Reds). Have we run out of American heroes or heroines? Where are the movies of the boat people who escaped with their lives to the US? I say let's show Communists and Socialists after we've had all the inspiring people made into movies first.

Finally, let's take a moment to read aloud the poem of Raúl Rivero

Search Order
by Raúl Rivero

What are these gentlemen looking for
in my house?

What is this officer doing
reading the sheet of paper
on which I've written
the words "ambition," "lightness," and "brittle"?

What hint of conspiracy
speaks to him from the photo without a dedication
of my father in a guayabera (black tie)
in the fields of the National Capitol?

How does he interpret my certificates of divorce?

Where will his techniques of harassment lead him
when he reads the ten-line poems
and discovers the war wounds
of my great-grandfather?

Eight policemen
are examining the texts and drawings of my daughters,
and are infiltrating themselves into my emotional networks
and want to know where little Andrea sleeps
and what does her asthma have to do
with my carpets.

They want the code of a message from Zucu
in the upper part
of a cryptic text (here a light triumphal smile
of the comrade):
"Castles with music box. I won't let the boy
hang out with the boogeyman. Jennie."

A specialist in aporia came,
a literary critic with the rank of interim corporal
who examined at the point of a gun
the hills of poetry books.

Eight policemen
in my house
with a search order,
a clean operation,
a full victory
for the vanguard of the proletariat
who confiscated my Consul typewriter,
one hundred forty-two blank pages
and a sad and personal heap of papers
—the most perishable of the perishable
from this summer.

Mover Mike

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