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Snubbing Che

Robert Redford’s revolutionary hero dissed -- a disturbing footnote.

By 1.31.05

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Nominations for this year's Academy Awards were announced last week, and due to a technicality, Walter Salles's acclaimed The Motorcycle Diaries isn't eligible for the foreign language Oscar. Because Diaries was shot in several South American countries, and financed primarily with U.S. dollars, it fell between the cracks in a process which allows each foreign country to nominate only one film.

Well, boo hoo.

The movie -- executive-produced by Robert Redford -- follows the adventures of the young Ernesto "Che" Guevara on a motorcycle odyssey across South America in 1951-52. It was during this trip, the film suggests, that Che first came to grips with the social injustices which would inspire his revolutionary conscience.

Despite its Oscar snub, the movie's critical and commercial success raises the intriguing possibility of a sequel. Perhaps it will pick up with Che's life after he joins forces with Fidel Castro in Cuba. The potential material is rich: scenes of Che presiding over the early firing squads after the Revolution, scenes of Che establishing Cuba's "labor camp" system -- which was eventually used to imprison not only dissidents but homosexuals and AIDS victims. This latter Che, after all, was the one who wrote: "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 …"

Then again, if Salles and Redford feels they've exhausted Che with The Motorcycle Diaries, perhaps they might turn to another subject for their next hagiography -- say, Mullah Omar. Yes, I can see it now. The camera follows young Omar as he leads Mujahideen forces against the Soviets in Afghanistan, as he orders the destruction of the ancient statues of Buddha, as he establishes the Taliban government, as he hooks up with Osama bin Laden.

Sounds like another hit to me.

Mark Goldblatt (MGold57@aol.com) is the author of Africa Speaks, a satire of black urban culture.

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About the Author
Mark Goldblatt teaches at Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY). His latest novel, Sloth, was published last year by Greenpoint Press.