Despite being dead since 1967, Che Guevara is hotter than ever, even in Iceland, which isn’t surprising considering the same jokers running the government have been in power for going on 15 years. This place is ripe for revolution. (For the funniest Che in Iceland, see the bar Castro in Keflavík, which features an image of Che on it’s sign and caters to people who make money from the NATO base.)
Conservative Hollywood studios would never consider a film about the iconic figure who hung out with everybody’s favorite dictator, Fidel Castro. So leave it to maverick filmmaker Robert Redford to produce The Motorcycle Diaries, which chronicles the journey Guevara (Gael García Bernal) and his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De La Serna) took across the South American continent back in 1952. Based primarily on Guevara’s memoir, the film is a coming of age story, examining Guevara’s political awakening as he traverses the continent that he wound up dying for.
The Motorcycle Diaries is, at its heart, a road movie. And there are few directors better equipped to expose South America to audiences than Walter Salles, who directed the Brazilian film Central Station, a tender, yet disturbing movie that follows a cynical old woman and a young boy from the slums of Rio de Janeiro, across the vastness that is the Brazilian countryside.
“…It is about a journey to discover not only one’s identity, and one’s place in the world, but also about the search for what I think we could call a Latin American identity,” Salles has said about The Motorcycle Diaries.
A journey, however, is not worthy of a film unless the trip transforms those who undertake it. Who wants to watch a movie about a character that remains the same the entire 90 minutes? But anytime characters gaze upon the Inca ruins at the heights of Machu Picchu you know there’s going to be transformation.
Edward Weinman is a journalist and screenwriter. He cowrote A Little Trip to Heaven with director Baltasar Kormakur and is currently working on an adaptation of Arnaldur Indriðason’s The Moor.
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