Che is a two-part 2008 biographical film about Argentine Marxist
revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, directed by
Steven Soderbergh and
starring Benicio del Toro. Rather than follow a standard chronological
order, the films offer an oblique series of interspersed moments along
the overall timeline. Part One is entitled The Argentine and focuses
Cuban Revolution from the landing of Fidel Castro, Guevara, and
other revolutionaries in
Cuba to their successful toppling of
Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship two years later. Part Two is titled
Guerrilla and focuses on Guevara's attempt to bring revolution to
Bolivia and his demise. Both parts are shot in a cinéma vérité
style, but each has different approaches to linear narrative,
camerawork and the visual look.
Terrence Malick originally worked on a screenplay limited to
Guevara's attempts to start a revolution in Bolivia. When financing
fell through, Malick left the project, and Soderbergh subsequently
agreed to direct the film. He realized that there was no context for
Guevara's actions in
Bolivia and decided that his participation in the
Cuban Revolution and his appearance at the
United Nations in 1964
should also be depicted.
Peter Buchman was hired to write the
screenplay — the script was so long that Soderbergh decided to
divide the film into two parts: one chronicling Cuba, the other
depicting Bolivia. Soderbergh shot the installments back-to-back
starting at the beginning of July 2007, with Guerrilla first in Spain
for 39 days, and The Argentine shot in
Puerto Rico and
Mexico for 39
Che was screened as a single film at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
del Toro won the Best Actor Award, and the film received mostly
positive reviews. IFC Films, which holds all North American rights,
initially released the combined film for one week on 12 December 2008
New York City
New York City and
Los Angeles to qualify for the year's Academy
Awards. Strong box office performance led to the "special roadshow
edition" being extended in NYC and LA, and later expanded into
additional markets. It was released as two separate films, titled Che
Part 1: The Argentine and
Che Part 2: Guerrilla, and further
distribution followed. The
Independent Film Channel
Independent Film Channel released the films
via video on demand and on Region 1
DVD exclusively from Blockbuster.
As a whole,
Che grossed USD$40.9 million worldwide, against a budget
of USD$58 million.
1.1 Part 1: The Argentine
1.2 Part 2: Guerrilla
3.4 Principal photography
5.1 Cannes reaction
5.2 NYFF reaction
5.3 Miami screening and protest
5.4 Cuban homecoming
New York City
New York City debut
5.6 Venezuela and President Chávez
5.7 General reviews
7 Home media
8 See also
10 External links
See also: Cuban Revolution
Part 1: The Argentine
Havana in 1964,
Che Guevara is interviewed by Lisa Howard who asks
him if reform throughout Latin America might not blunt the "message of
the Cuban Revolution."
In 1955, at a gathering in
Mexico City, Guevara first meets Fidel
Castro. He listens to Castro’s plans and signs on as a member of the
July 26th Movement.
There is a return to 1964 for Guevara’s address before the United
Nations General Assembly in New York City, where he makes an
impassioned speech against American imperialism, and defends the
executions his regime has committed, declaring "this is a battle to
March 1957. Guevara deals with debilitating bouts of asthma as his
group of revolutionaries meet up with Castro’s. Together, they
attack an army barracks in the
Sierra Maestra on May 28, 1957. After
that, they begin to win over the rural peasant population of
receive increasing support, while battling both the government and
traitors in their midst. Gradually, however, the government loses
control of most of the rural areas. Soon afterward, the July 26th
Movement forges alliances with other revolutionary movements in Cuba,
and begin to assault towns and villages. Most fall to the rebels with
little to no resistance.
On October 15, 1958, the guerrillas approach the town of Las Villas.
Battle of Santa Clara
Battle of Santa Clara is depicted with Guevara demonstrating his
tactical skill as the guerrillas engage in street-to-street fighting
and derail a train carrying Cuban soldiers and armaments. Near the
film‘s end, they are victorious. With the
Cuban Revolution now over,
Guevara heads to Havana, remarking "we won the war, the revolution
Part 2: Guerrilla
See also: Bolivian Insurgency (1966–1967)
The second part begins on November 3, 1966 with Guevara arriving in
Bolivia disguised as a middle-aged representative of the Organization
of American States hailing from Uruguay, who subsequently drives into
the mountains to meet his men. The film is organized by the number of
days that he was in the country. On Day 26, there is solidarity among
Guevara's men despite his status as a foreigner. By Day 67, Guevara,
however, has been set up for betrayal. He tries to recruit some
peasants only to be mistaken for a cocaine smuggler, and the Bolivian
Communist Party, led by Mario Monje, refuse to support the armed
struggle. On Day 100, there is a shortage of food and Guevara
exercises discipline to resolve conflicts between his Cuban and
By Day 113, some of the guerrillas have deserted, and, upon capture,
have led the
Bolivian Army to the revolutionaries' base camp, which
contained vast stockpiles of food, much-needed supplies, and
intelligence identifying much of the group as Cubans. Much to Che's
disappointment Tamara "Tania" Bunke, Guevara's revolutionary contact
has botched elaborate preparations and given away their identity. On
Day 141, the guerrillas capture Bolivian soldiers that refuse to join
the revolution and are free to return to their villages. CIA and US
Special Forces advisers arrive to supervise anti-insurgent
activity and to train the Bolivian Army. On Day 169, Guevara's
visiting friend, the French intellectual Régis Debray, is captured at
Muyupampa by the
Bolivian Army along with two of Che's last contacts
with the outside world. A Bolivian airstrike then occurs against Che's
guerrillas on Day 219, driving them deeper into hiding. By this time,
Che has split his forces; his best fighters travel with him in one
column, while another column contains other personnel, including
Tania, and carries much of the remaining supplies.
Guevara grows sick and by Day 280 can barely breathe as a result of
his acute asthma. Nevertheless, he continues to lead his group towards
the other column of revolutionaries. On Day 302, the Bolivian Army
wipes out the other column, killing Tania Bunke, Juan Acuña Ñunez,
and several others in an ambush as they attempt to cross the Vado del
Yeso after a local informant tells the Bolivian troops about the
movements of the rebels. By Day 340, Guevara is trapped by the
Bolivian Army in the Yuro Ravine near the village of La Higuera. Che
is wounded and captured. The next day, a helicopter lands and Cuban
American CIA agent Félix Rodríguez emerges to interrogate Che, but
without success. The Bolivian high command then phones and orders
Guevara's execution. He is shot on 9 October 1967, and his corpse
lashed to a helicopter's landing skids and flown out.
In a final flashback scene, Guevara is aboard the Granma in 1956,
looking out over the ocean, as the
Cuban Revolution is about to begin.
He sees the Castro brothers alone at the bow of the ship; Fidel is
talking and Raúl is taking notes. Guevara hands a peeled orange to
one of his comrades and returns his gaze to the lone brothers before
the scene fades to black.
Benicio del Toro
Benicio del Toro as Ernesto "Che" Guevara
Demián Bichir as Fidel Castro
Rodrigo Santoro as Raúl Castro
Santiago Cabrera as Camilo Cienfuegos
Franka Potente as Tamara "Tania" Bunke
Gastón Pauls as Ciro Bustos (el Argentino)
Catalina Sandino Moreno
Catalina Sandino Moreno as Aleida March
Julia Ormond as Lisa Howard
Oscar Isaac as U.N. Interpreter and film narrator
Lou Diamond Phillips
Lou Diamond Phillips as Mario Monje
Benjamín Benítez as Harry "Pombo" Villegas
Armando Riesco as Benigno
Elvira Mínguez as Celia Sanchez
Édgar Ramírez as Ciro Redondo
Alfredo De Quesada as Israel Pardo
Roberto Luis Santana as Juan Almeida Bosque
Victor Rasuk as Rogelio Acevedo
Kahlil Mendez as Urbano
Matt Damon as Fr. Schwarz
Unax Ugalde as Roberto "El Vaquerito" Rodríguez
Joaquim de Almeida
Joaquim de Almeida as René Barrientos
Che was intended to be a much more traditional film based
on Jon Lee Anderson's 1997 biography
Che Guevara: A Revolutionary
Benicio del Toro
Benicio del Toro and producer Laura Bickford optioned the
film rights to Anderson's book. However, after two years they had not
found a suitable writer and the rights expired. During this time,
Del Toro and Bickford researched the events depicted in Guerrilla with
the idea of exploring Guevara's attempts to start a revolution in
Bolivia. Del Toro has said that he previously only thought of
Guevara as a "bad guy". For his role, Del Toro spent seven years
"obsessively researching" Guevara's life, which made him feel like he
"earned his stripes" to interpret the character. Preparation
included looking at Guevara's photographs and reading his personal
writings. Del Toro read Don Quixote, one of Guevara's favorites, and
the first book published and given out free after the Cuban
Revolution. Del Toro then personally met with people from different
stages of Guevara's life, including Guevara's younger brother and
childhood friends, traveling to
Cuba where Del Toro met Guevara's
widow, family, and "tons of people that loved this man". The visit
included a five-minute encounter at a book fair with Fidel Castro, who
expressed that he was happy for the "serious" research being
undertaken. Such research included collaborating with the three
surviving guerrillas from Guevara's ill-fated Bolivian campaign, and
with several guerrillas who fought alongside him in Cuba. While
researching for both films, Soderbergh made a documentary of his
interviews with many of the people who had fought alongside
Guevara. In his encounters with people ranging from fellow
guerrillas to Guevara's driver, Del Toro described the reaction as
"always the same", stating that he was "blown away" by the "bucketful
of love" they still harbored for Guevara. In an interview, Del Toro
described Guevara as "a weird combination of an intellectual and an
Gregory Peck and Steve McQueen, wrapped in one".
After the film's production concluded, Del Toro professed that "when
you tell the story of Che, you're telling a story of the history of a
country, so you have to be very careful".
Del Toro and Bickford hired screenwriter Benjamin A. van der Veen to
write the screenplay's first drafts, and their extensive research took
Cuba where they met with several of the remaining members of
Guevara's team in
Bolivia as well as the revolutionary's wife and
children. It was during this phase of development that the filmmakers
Terrence Malick had been in
Bolivia as a journalist in 1966
working on a story about Che. Malick came on as director and worked on
the screenplay with van der Veen and Del Toro, but after a
year-and-a-half, the financing had not come together entirely and
Malick left to make The New World, a film about Jamestown,
Virginia. Afraid that their multi-territory deals would fall apart,
Bickford and Del Toro asked Steven Soderbergh, who was previously on
board as producer, to direct. The filmmaker was drawn to the
contrast of "engagement versus disengagement. Do we want to
participate or observe? Once
Che made the decision to engage, he
engaged fully. Often people attribute that to a higher power, but as
an atheist, he didn't have that. I found that very interesting".
Furthermore, he remarked that Guevara was "great movie material" and
"had one of the most fascinating lives" that he could "imagine in the
last century". Bickford and Del Toro realized that there was no
context for what made Guevara decide to go to Bolivia. They began
looking for someone to rewrite the screenplay;
Peter Buchman was
recommended to them because he had a good reputation for writing about
historical figures, based on a script he worked about Alexander the
Great. He spent a year reading every available book on Guevara in
preparation for writing the script. The project was put on hold when
Bickford and Del Toro made Traffic with Soderbergh.
Soderbergh wanted to incorporate Guevara's experiences in
Cuba and at
United Nations in 1964. Buchman helped with the script's
structure, which he gave three storylines: Guevara's life and the
Cuban Revolution; his demise in Bolivia; and his trip to New York to
speak at the U.N. Buchman found that the problem with containing all
of these stories in one film was that he had to condense time and this
distorted history. Soderbergh found the draft Buchman submitted to
him "unreadable" and after two weeks decided to split the script into
two separate films. Buchman went back and with Del Toro expanded
the Cuban story for The Argentine. Additional research included
reading Guevara's diaries and declassified documents from the U.S.
State Department about his trip to New York and memos from his time in
Soderbergh found the task of researching such a popular historical
figure as Guevara a daunting one: "If you go to any bookstore, you'll
find an entire wall of Che-related material. We tried to go through
all of it, we were overwhelmed with information. He means something
different to everyone. At a certain point we had to decide for
Che was". The original source material for these
scripts was Guevara's diary from the Cuban Revolution, Reminiscences
of the Cuban
Revolutionary War, and from his time in Bolivia, Bolivian
Diary. From there, he drew on interviews with people who knew
Guevara from both of those time periods and read every book available
that pertained to both
Cuba and Bolivia. Bickford and Del Toro met
with Harry "Pombo" Villegas, Urbano and Benigno—three men who met
Guevara during the Cuban Revolution, followed him to Bolivia, and
survived. They interviewed them individually and then Pombo and
Benigno together about their experiences in
Cuba and Bolivia. Urbano
was an adviser while they were filming in
Spain and the actors often
consulted with him and the others about specific details, like how to
hold their guns in a certain situation, and very specific tactical
In December 2008, Ocean Press, in cooperation with the
Publishing Project, released Che: The Diaries of Ernesto
with a movie tie-in cover. The book's aim was to compile all the
original letters, diary excerpts, speeches and maps on which
Soderbergh relied for the film. The text is interspersed with remarks
Benicio del Toro
Benicio del Toro and Steven Soderbergh.
Che was going to be made in English and was met with a
strong interest in financing; however, when the decision was made to
make it in Spanish and break it up into two films, the studios' pay-TV
deals, which were for English-language product only, "disappeared",
according to Bickford, "and, at that point, nobody wanted to step
up". The director defended his decision to shoot almost all of the
film in Spanish in an interview: "You can't make a film with any level
of credibility in this case unless it's in Spanish. I hope we're
reaching a time where you go make a movie in another culture, that you
shoot in the language of that culture. I'm hoping the days of that
sort of specific brand of cultural imperialism have ended". Both
films were financed without any American money or distribution deal;
Soderbergh remarked, "It was very frustrating to know that this is a
zeitgeist movie and that some of the very people who told me how much
they now regret passing on Traffic passed on this one too".
Foreign pre-sales covered $54 million of the $58 million budget.
Wild Bunch, a French production, distribution and foreign sales
company put up 75% of the budget for the two films, tapping into a
production and acquisition fund from financing and investment company
Continental Entertainment Capitol, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based
Citigroup. Spain's Telecinco/Moreno Films supplied the rest of the
In 2006, shortly before the U.N. Headquarters underwent major
renovations, Del Toro and Soderbergh shot the scenes of Guevara
speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in 1964. The director wanted
to shoot the first part of The Argentine in Cuba, but was prevented
from travelling there by the U.S. government's embargo. Doubling
Santa Clara proved to be difficult because it was a certain size and
had a certain look. Soderbergh spent four to five months scouting for
a suitable replacement, looking at towns in Veracruz/Yucatán before
settling on Campeche, which had the elements they needed.
The original intention was for The Argentine to be shot using
16 mm film
16 mm film because, according to the director, it needed "a
bit of Bruckheimer but scruffier". He kept to his plan of shooting
The Argentine anamorphically, and Guerrilla with spherical lenses.
Soderbergh wanted to use the new RED One rather than 16 mm film
because of its ability to replicate film stock digitally but
initially, it was not going to be available on time. However, their
Spanish work papers and visas were late and Del Toro and Soderbergh
were grounded in
Los Angeles for a week. The director was meanwhile
informed that the prototype cameras were ready.
Each half of the film focuses on a different revolution, both
fundamentally the same in theory but vastly different in outcome,
reflecting the Marxist notion of dialectics. Soderbergh wanted the
film's two parts to mimic the voice of the two diaries they were based
on; the Cuban diaries were written after the fact and, according to
the director, "with a certain hindsight and perspective and a tone
that comes from being victorious", while the Bolivian diaries were
"contemporaneous, and they're very isolated and have no perspective,
at all. It's a much more tense read, because the outcome is totally
Soderbergh shot the films back-to-back in the beginning of July 2007
with Guerrilla shot first in
Spain for 39 days and The Argentine shot
Puerto Rico and
Mexico for 39 days. The director conceived The
Argentine as "a Hollywood movie" shot in widescreen 'scope aspect
ratio, with the camera either fixed or moving on a dolly or a
Steadicam. Guerrilla was shot, according to Soderbergh, "in
Super-16, 1.85:1. No dollies, no cranes, it's all either handheld or
tripods. I want it to look nice but simple. We'll work with a very
small group: basically me, the producer Gregory Jacobs and the unit
production manager". According to the director, the portion set in
Cuba was written from the victor's perspective and as a result he
adopted a more traditional look with classical compositions, vibrant
color and a warm palette. With Guerrilla, he wanted a sense of
foreboding with hand-held camerawork and a muted color palette.
Soderbergh told his production designer Antxon Gomez that the first
part would have green with a lot of yellow in it and the second part
would have green with a lot of blue in it.
At the end of The Argentine, Soderbergh depicts Guevara's derailment
of a freight train during the Battle of Santa Clara. In filming the
sequence, Soderbergh balked at the digital effects solution and
managed to reallocate $500,000 from the overall $58 million budget to
build a real set of tracks and a train powered by two V-8 car engines.
To film the scene, they had six rehearsals, and could only shoot the
Many aspects of Guevara's personality and beliefs affected the filming
process. For instance, close-ups of Del Toro were avoided due to
Guevara's belief in collectivism, with Soderbergh remarking, "You
can't make a movie about a guy who has these hard-core sort of
egalitarian socialist principles and then isolate him with
close-ups." According to Edgar Ramirez, who portrays Ciro Redondo,
the cast "were improvising a lot" while making The Argentine, and he
describes the project as a "very contemplative movie", shot
chronologically. While filming outdoors, Soderbergh used natural
light as much as possible. Del Toro, who speaks Puerto Rican
Spanish, tried to speak the best Argentinean Spanish (Rioplatense
Spanish) he could without sounding "stiff". Prior to shooting the
film's final scenes that depict Guevara's time in
Bolivia at the end
of his life, Del Toro shed 35 pounds to show how ill Guevara had
become. The actor shaved the top of his head rather than wear a bald
cap for the scenes depicting Guevara's arrival in
Soderbergh has said that with Che, he wanted to show everyday tasks,
"things that have meaning on a practical level and on an ideological
level", as a "way of showing what it might have been like to be
there". While addressing the issue after at the Toronto
International Film Festival, Soderbergh remarked that he was trying to
avoid what he felt were typical scenes for a biographical film and
that he would tell screenwriter Peter Buchman, that he was "trying to
find the scenes that would happen before or after the scene that you
would typically see in a movie like this". Soderbergh was not
interested in depicting Guevara's personal life because he felt that
"everybody on these campaigns has a personal life, they all left
families behind, that doesn't make him special and why should I go
into his personal life and nobody else's?"
Soderbergh decided to omit the post-revolution execution sentences of
"suspected war criminals, traitors and informants" that Guevara
La Cabana Fortress
La Cabana Fortress because "there is no amount of
accumulated barbarity that would have satisfied the people who hate
him". Soderbergh addressed the criticism for this omission in a
post release interview where he stated: "I don't think anybody now,
even in Cuba, is going to sit with a straight face and defend the
events. La Cabana was really turned into a Roman circus, where I think
even the people in power look back on that as excessive. However,
every regime, in order to retain power when it feels threatened, acts
excessively ... This is what people do when they feel they need to act
in an extreme way to secure themselves". The filmmaker noted as
well that, "with a character this complicated, you’re going to have
a very polarized reaction". Furthermore, he was not interested in
depicting Guevara's life as "a bureaucrat", stating that he was making
a diptych about two military campaigns, declaring the pictures "war
films". Soderbergh said, "I'm sure some people will say, 'That's
convenient because that's when he was at his worst.' Yeah, maybe—it
just wasn't interesting to me. I was interested in making a procedural
about guerrilla warfare".
Soderbergh described the
Cuban Revolution as "the last analog
revolution. I loved that we shot a period film about a type of war
that can't be fought anymore". Soderbergh has said that he is open
to making another film about Guevara's experiences in the Congo but
Che makes $100 million at the box office.
Theatrical distribution rights were pre-sold to distributors in
several major territories, including France, the United Kingdom,
Scandinavia, Italy, and Japan (Nikkatsu); Twentieth Century Fox bought
the Spanish theatrical and home video rights.
IFC Films paid a low
seven-figure sum to acquire all North American rights to
production had completed and released it on 12 December 2008 in New
York City and
Los Angeles in order to qualify it for the Academy
Awards. The "special roadshow edition" in N.Y.C. and L.A. was
initially planned as a one-week special engagement—complete with
intermission and including a full-color printed program—but strong
box-office results led to its re-opening for two weeks on 9 January
2009 as two separate films, titled
Che Part 1: The Argentine and Che
Part 2: Guerrilla. Soderbergh said that the program's inspiration
came from the 70 mm engagements for Francis Ford Coppola's
Apocalypse Now. The film was expanded to additional markets on 16
and 22 January both as a single film and as two separate
films. IFC made the films available through video on demand on
21 January on all major cable and satellite providers in both standard
and high definition versions.
Che was screened on 21 May at the
2008 Cannes Film Festival
2008 Cannes Film Festival reportedly
running over four hours. Following this screening, Soderbergh cut
5–7 minutes from each half. It was shown at the 46th New York
Film Festival and was shown at the 33rd Toronto International Film
Che with a 15-minute intermission and as two separate
films, The Argentine and Guerrilla, where it was considered the
festival's "must-see" film.
Che made its sold-out L.A. premiere at
Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Grauman's Chinese Theatre on 1 November 2008 as part of the AFI
Che was screened in Guevara's homeland of
Argentina in November
2008. To mark the occasion, the streets of
Buenos Aires were
decorated with large posters of Del Toro in his role as the guerrilla
fighter, unprecedented in the city's history. When questioned by the
press on Guevara's ideas and use of violence, Del Toro stated that if
he had lived during the 1960s, he would have agreed with Guevara, and
that although he did not support violent revolution now, in the '60s
he may "have been another person and in agreement with armed war".
Del Toro and Soderbergh both attended the French premiere in late
November 2008, where they took questions from the press. Del Toro
remarked that the "legendary rebel" was still pertinent because "the
things that he fought for in the late 1950s and mid 1960s are still
relevant today", adding that "he did not hide behind curtains ... he
stood up for the forgotten ones". When asked why he made the film,
Soderbergh stated, "I needed to make the film, and that is a different
feeling. I felt like, if I am worth anything, I have to say yes. I
can't say no". The following day, the Dubai International Film
Festival would describe Soderbergh's narrative as a "magisterial ...
compelling experience", with Del Toro's performance as
Che opened in single theaters in N.Y.C. and L.A. where it made $60,100
with sellouts of both venues. Based on this success, IFC Films
executives added two weekends of exclusive runs for the roadshow
version, starting 24 December in N.Y.C. and 26 December in L.A.
This successful run prompted
IFC Films to show this version in nine
additional markets on 16 January.
Che will be shown in its entirety,
commercial and trailer free with an intermission and limited edition
program book at every screening. Soderbergh has said that the
film's roadshow version will not be released on
DVD but released in
two parts with the animated map that opens the roadshow's second half
missing from Part II, as well as the overture and intermission
According to Variety, it had grossed $164,142 in one weekend, at 35
locations in North America and $20 million from a half-dozen major
markets around the world, led by
Spain at $9.7 million. As of May
2009, it has grossed $1.4 million in North America and $29.8 million
in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $30 million.
Che made good profit for IFC Films.
Early reviews were mixed, although there were several critics who
spoke glowingly of the project. Cinematical's James Rocchi
described the biopic as "expressive, innovative, striking, and
exciting" as well as "bold, beautiful, bleak and brilliant". Rocchi
went on to brand it "a work of art" that's "not just the story of a
revolutionary" but "a revolution in and of itself". Columnist and
critic Jeffrey Wells proclaimed the film "brilliant", "utterly
believable", and "the most exciting and far-reaching film of the
Cannes Film Festival". In further praise, Wells referred to the film
as "politically vibrant and searing" while labeling it a "perfect
Todd McCarthy was more mixed in his reaction to the film in its
present form, describing it as "too big a roll of the dice to pass off
as an experiment, as it's got to meet high standards both commercially
and artistically. The demanding running time forces comparison to such
rare works as Lawrence of Arabia, Reds and other biohistorical epics.
Che doesn't feel epic—just long". Anne Thompson
Benicio del Toro
Benicio del Toro "gives a great performance", but predicted
that "it will not be released stateside as it was seen here".
Glenn Kenny wrote, "
Che benefits greatly from certain Soderberghian
qualities that don't always serve his other films well, e.g.,
detachment, formalism, and intellectual curiosity".
Peter Bradshaw, in his review for The Guardian, wrote, "Perhaps it
will even come to be seen as this director's flawed masterpiece:
enthralling but structurally fractured—the second half is much
clearer and more sure-footed than the first—and at times
frustratingly reticent, unwilling to attempt any insight into Che's
interior world". In his less favorable review for Esquire, Stephen
Garrett criticized the film for failing to show Guevara's negative
aspects, "the absence of darker, more contradictory revelations of his
Che bereft of complexity. All that remains is a South
American superman: uncomplex, pure of heart, defiantly pious and
Richard Corliss had problems with Del Toro's portrayal of
Guevara: "Del Toro—whose acting style often starts over the top and
soars from there, like a hang-glider leaping from a skyscraper
roof—is muted, yielding few emotional revelations, seemingly sedated
Che is defined less by his rigorous fighting skills and
seductive intellect than by his asthma". In his review for
Salon.com, Andrew O'Hehir praised Soderbergh for making "something
that people will be eager to see and eager to talk about all over the
world, something that feels strangely urgent, something messy and
unfinished and amazing. I'd be surprised if
Che doesn't win the Palme
d'Or ... but be that as it may, nobody who saw it here will ever
Soderbergh replied to the criticism that he made an unconventional
film: "I find it hilarious that most of the stuff being written about
movies is how conventional they are, and then you have people ...
upset that something's not conventional. The bottom line is we're just
trying to give you a sense of what it was like to hang out around this
person. That's really it. And the scenes were chosen strictly on the
basis of, 'Yeah, what does that tell us about his character?'".
After Cannes, Soderbergh made a few minor adjustments to the film.
This included adding a moment of Guevara and
Fidel Castro shaking
hands, tweaking a few transitions, and tacking on an overture and
entr'acte to the limited "road show" version. Moreover, he removed the
trial of guerrilla Lalo Sardiñas, which Chicago film critic Ben
Kenigsberg found "regrettable", stating that it was "not only one of
the film's most haunting scenes but a key hint at the darker side of
In her review for The New York Times, based on a screening at the New
York Film Festival,
Manohla Dargis observes that "throughout the movie
Mr. Soderbergh mixes the wild beauty of his landscapes with images of
Che heroically engaged in battle, thoughtfully scribbling and reading,
and tending to ailing peasants and soldiers". According to Dargis,
Che loses, but
Che remains the same in what plays like a
procedural about a charismatic leader, impossible missions and the
pleasures of work and camaraderie", referring to the "historical epic"
Ocean's Eleven with better cigars". However, Dargis notes that
"Mr. Soderbergh cagily evades Che's ugly side, notably his increasing
commitment to violence and seemingly endless war, but the movie is
without question political—even if it emphasizes romantic adventure
over realpolitik—because, like all films, it is predicated on
getting, spending and making money".
Film critic Glenn Kenny wrote, "
Che seems to me almost the polar
opposite of agitprop. It flat out does not ask for the kind of
emotional engagement that more conventional epic biopics do, and
that's a good thing". In his review for UGO, Keith Uhlich wrote,
"The best to say about Del Toro's Cannes-honored performance is that
it's exhausting—all exterior, no soul, like watching an android run
a gauntlet (one that includes grueling physical exertions, tendentious
political speechifying, and risible
Matt Damon cameos)". Slant
Che two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "The
problem is that, despite his desire to sidestep Hollywood bio-hooey,
the director is unable to turn his chilly stance into an ideological
Roberto Rossellini did in his demythologized
portraits of Louis XIV,
Garibaldi and Pascal".
In his review for Salon magazine, Andrew O'Hehir wrote, "What
Soderbergh has sought to capture here is a grand process of birth and
extinguishment, one that produced a complicated legacy in which John
McCain, Barack Obama, and
Raúl Castro are still enmeshed. There will
be plenty of time to argue about the film's (or films') political
relevance or lack thereof, to call Soderbergh names for this or that
historical omission, for this or that ideological error. He's made
something that people will be eager to see and eager to talk about all
over the world, something that feels strangely urgent, something messy
and unfinished and amazing".
Miami screening and protest
On 4 December 2008,
Che premiered at Miami Beach's Byron Carlyle
Theatre, as part of the
Art Basel Festival. Taking place only a few
miles from Little Havana, which is home to the United States' largest
Cuban American community, the invitation-only screening was met with
angry demonstrators. The organization Vigilia Mambisa, led by
Miguel Saavedra, amassed an estimated 100 demonstrators to decry what
they believed would be a favorable depiction of Guevara. Saavedra told
reporters from the
El Nuevo Herald
El Nuevo Herald that "you cannot offend the
sensitivities of the people", while describing the film as "a
disgrace". A supporter of the demonstration, Miami Beach's mayor
Matti Herrera Bower, lamented that the film was shown, while declaring
"we must not allow dissemination of this movie". When asked days
later about the incident, Del Toro remarked that the ability to speak
out was "part of what makes America great" while adding "I find it a
little weird that they were protesting without having seen the film,
but that's another matter". For his part, Soderbergh later stated
that "you have to separate the Cuban nationalist lobby that is
centered in Miami from the rest of the country".
On 7 December 2008,
Che premiered at Havana's 5,000+ person Karl Marx
Theater as part of the Latin American Film Festival. Benicio Del
Toro, who was in attendance, referred to the film as "Cuban history",
while remarking that "there's an audience in there ... that could be
the most knowledgeable critics of the historical accuracy of the
film". The official state paper Granma gave Del Toro a glowing
review, professing that he "personifies Che" in both his physical
appearance and his "masterly interpretation". After unveiling Che
in Havana's Yara Cinema, Del Toro was treated to a 10-minute standing
ovation from the 2,000+ strong audience, many of whom were involved in
New York City
New York City debut
On 12 December 2008,
Che was screened at New York City's sold out
1,100 person Ziegfeld Theater. Upon seeing the first image on the
screen (a silhouette of Cuba), the crowd erupted into a raucous cry of
"¡Viva, Cuba!" Following the film, and the standing ovation it
received, Soderbergh appeared for a post program Q&A. During
the sometimes contentious conversation with the audience, in which
Soderbergh alternated between defensiveness and modesty, the director
categorized Guevara as "a hard ass", to which one audience member
yelled out, "Bullshit, he was a murderer!" The filmmaker settled
down the crowd and explained, "It doesn't matter whether I agree with
him or not—I was interested in
Che as a warrior,
Che as a guy who
had an ideology, who picked up a gun and this was the result. He died
the way you would have him die. He was executed the way you would say
he executed other people". Soderbergh ended the 1 am Q&A
session by noting that he was "agnostic" on Che's standing, but "loyal
to the facts", which he insisted were all rigorously sourced.
Venezuela and President Chávez
On 3 March 2009, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, himself a
socialist and admirer of
Che Guevara, greeted Del Toro and co star
Bichir at the Presidential Palace in Caracas. The day prior Del Toro
attended a screening of the film at a bullfighting ring-turned
cultural center, where he was "mobbed by adoring fans". Del Toro
then visited the state-run Cinema Town, a film production facility
President Chávez launched to help Venezuela produce its own movies as
an alternative to what Chávez calls Hollywood's cultural imperialism.
Del Toro described
Che as "a totally Latin American movie" and stated
that he had "a good meeting with the President".
Part One has a 67% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 136
reviews, and an average rating of 6.4/10. The website's critical
consensus states, "Though lengthy and at times plodding, Soderbergh's
vision and Benicio Del Toro's understated performance ensure that Che
always fascinates." Meanwhile, Part Two has an 81% rating, based
on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The website's
critical consensus states, "The second part of Soderbergh's biopic is
a dark, hypnotic and sometimes frustrating portrait of a warrior in
decline, with a terrific central performance from Del Toro.". On
Metacritic, the film has a collective weighted average score of 64 out
of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generally favorable
Scott Foundas of the
LA Weekly proclaimed
Che "nothing if not the
movie of the year". In his review for the Village Voice, J.
Hoberman wrote, "At its best,
Che is both action film and ongoing
argument. Each new camera setup seeks to introduce a specific
Che or his situation—and every choreographed battle
sequence is a sort of algorithm where the camera attempts to inscribe
the event that is being enacted". Hoberman compared Soderbergh's
directing style and "non-personalized" historical approach on the film
to Otto Preminger's observational use of the moving camera, or one of
Roberto Rossellini's "serene" documentaries. Armond White, in his
review for the New York Press, wrote, "Out-perversing Gus Van Sant's
Milk, Soderbergh makes a four-hour-plus biopic about a historical
figure without providing a glimmer of charm or narrative
In his review for The New York Times, A.O. Scott writes, "Mr.
Soderbergh once again offers a master class in filmmaking. As history,
Che is finally not epic but romance. It takes great care to be
true to the factual record, but it is, nonetheless, a fairy tale".
Sheri Linden, in her review for the
Los Angeles Times, wrote, "in this
flawed work of austere beauty, the logistics of war and the language
of revolution give way to something greater, a struggle that may be
defined by politics but can't be contained by it". In her review
for the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday wrote, "The best way to
encounter Che, is to let go of words like 'film' and 'movie', words
that somehow seem inadequate to the task of describing such a
mesmerizing, fully immersive cinematic experience. By the end of Che,
viewers will likely emerge as if from a trance, with indelibly vivid,
if not more ambivalent feelings about Guevara, than the bumper-sticker
image they walked in with".
Entertainment Weekly gave a "B+" rating to the first half of the film
and a "C-" rating to the second half, and
Owen Gleiberman wrote, "As
Che moves from faith to impotence, which is
certainly a valid reading of Communism in the 20th century. Yet as
drama, that makes the second half of the film borderline deadly ...
Che is twice as long as it needs to be, but it is also only half the
movie it should have been". James Verniere of The Boston Herald
gave the film a B-, describing the work as a new genre of "arthouse
guerrilla nostalgia", while lamenting
Che as the film version of
Alberto Korda’s iconic 1960 photograph Guerrillero Heroico. In
Verniere's view, so much information was missing, that he recommended
one first see The Motorcycle Diaries to fill in the background.
In her review for USA Today, Claudia Puig wrote, "With its lyrical
beauty and strong performances, the film can be riveting. Its
excessive length and rambling scenes also make it maddening. It is
worth seeing for its attention to visual detail and ambitious
filmmaking, but as a psychological portrait of a compelling historical
figure, it is oddly bland and unrevealing". Anthony Lane, in his
review for The New Yorker, wrote, "for all the movie’s narrative
Che retains the air of a study exercise—of an interest
brilliantly explored. How else to explain one’s total flatness of
feeling at the climax of each movie?" Taking a more positive
stance, film critic Chris Barsanti compared
Che to a "guerrilla take
on Patton", calling it "an exceptionally good" war film, which rivaled
The Battle of Algiers
The Battle of Algiers in its "you-are-there sensibility". Roger
Ebert awarded the film 3.5 out of 4 stars and addressed the film's
length: "You may wonder if the film is too long. I think there's a
good reason for its length. Guevara's experience in
Bolivia was not a series of events and anecdotes, but a
trial of endurance that might almost be called mad".
Film Comment ranked
Che as the 22nd-best film of 2008 in their "Best
Films of 2008" poll. Film critics Roger Ebert, and James
Rocchi went further, naming
Che one of the best films of 2008. The
film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of
Looking back at the experience of making Che, Soderbergh has said that
he now wishes that he had not made the film and remarked, "Literally
I'd wake up and think, 'At least I'm not doing that today.'" The
director blamed piracy for the film's financial failure and felt that
"It's a film that, to some extent, needs the support of people who
write about films. If you'd had all these guys running around talking
in accented English you'd [have got] your head taken off".
Del Toro was awarded the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival
for his performance in
Che and in his acceptance speech dedicated his
award "to the man himself,
Che Guevara and I want to share this with
Steven Soderbergh. He was there pushing it even when there [were
lulls] and pushing all of us". Guevara's widow Aleida March, who
is president of the
Che Guevara Studies Center, sent a congratulatory
note to Del Toro upon hearing the news of his award. Del Toro was
awarded a 2009
Goya Award as the best Spanish Lead Actor for his
depiction of Che. Actor Sean Penn, who won an Oscar for his role
in Milk, remarked that he was surprised and disappointed that
Del Toro were not also up for any
Academy Award nominations. During
his acceptance speech for the Best Actor's trophy at the Screen Actors
Guild Awards, Penn expressed his dismay stating, "The fact that there
aren't crowns on Soderbergh's and Del Toro's heads right now, I don't
understand ... that is such a sensational movie, Che." In
reference to what Penn deemed a snub, he added "Maybe because it's in
Spanish, maybe the length, maybe the politics".
On 31 July 2009, Del Toro was awarded the inaugural Tomas Gutierrez
Alea prize at a
Havana ceremony attended by U.S. actors Robert Duvall,
James Caan and Bill Murray. Named after a prolific Cuban filmmaker,
the new award was voted for by the National Union of Writers and
Artists of Cuba. Del Toro remarked that it was "an honor" to receive
the award and thanked
Che director Steven Soderbergh.
Che was also awarded "The White Camel", the top award handed out at
the sixth annual Sahara International Film Festival, whose ceremony
took place during the spring of 2009 in the Wilaya of Dakhla at the
Sahrawi refugee camps
Sahrawi refugee camps of 30,000 residents. Executive producer Alvaro
Longoria, attended to accept the award when Del Toro couldn't because
of filming for The Wolf Man. After dismounting the prize (which was a
literal camel) Longoria remarked that "this is real, this is what
Benicio and Steven tried to tell in the movie. It’s right here, a
people fighting a war for their dignity and their land. The principles
Che Guevara are very important to them." However, Longoria returned
the live animal before departing, opting for a camel statuette in its
The film was released on Region 1
DVD in January 2009 exclusively from
Blockbuster for 60 days as per an agreement with IFC. The
Criterion Collection was originally scheduled to release the film on
Blu-ray Disc in December 2009. However, the release date
was re-scheduled to 19 January 2010. The two-disc
Blu-ray Disc release
features 1080p video and a Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack
(with English subtitles).
Additional supplements include audio commentaries on both films
featuring Jon Lee Anderson—author of
Che Guevara: A Revolutionary
Life, and a 20-page booklet featuring an essay by film critic Amy
Taubin. There are also three short documentaries on Guevara:
Making Che—a documentary about the film's production,
the Digital Revolution—a documentary about the Red One Camera
technology that was used in the film's production, and End of a
Revolution—a 1968 documentary by Brian Moser who was in Bolivia
Che was executed.
Che Guevara in film
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The Motorcycle Diaries (film)
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Behold the Man: Steven Soderbergh's Epic Film Biography of
Che by J.
Hoberman, Virginian Quarterly Review, Winter 2009 Issue
The Young Castro Comes Alive Through Actor Demian Bichir's Performance
by Brad Balfour, The Huffington Post, 8 May 2009
Revolutionary Example by Stuart Munckton, Green Left, 25
Che: Part One on IMDb
Che: Part Two on IMDb
Che at Box Office Mojo
Che: Part One at Rotten Tomatoes
Che: Part Two at Rotten Tomatoes
Che at Metacritic
Photo Gallery: Del Toro as
Che from the New York Post
CNN Video Interview: "Soderbergh on Che" ----> Part 1 / Part 2
MSNBC's Morning Joe: Video Interview with Benicio Del Toro
NPR Audio Report: Benicio Del Toro Takes On Che
Time Magazine Photo Essay: Behind the Scenes on the Set of Che
Guardian Video Interview:
Benicio del Toro
Benicio del Toro on
Che Guevara: "He was not
26th of July Movement
Battle of Santa Clara
Bay of Pigs Invasion
Cuban Missile Crisis
Harry "Pombo" Villegas
The Motorcycle Diaries
Episodes of the Cuban
Bibliography of works on
The Motorcycle Diaries
Che (Part 1 & Part 2)
The Hands of
Che: Rise and Fall
Guerrillero Heroico photo
In popular culture
Vida del Che
Sex, Lies, and Videotape
Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)
King of the Hill (1993)
The Underneath (1995)
Gray's Anatomy (1996)
Out of Sight
Out of Sight (1998)
The Limey (1999)
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Full Frontal (2002)
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
The Good German
The Good German (2006)
Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
The Girlfriend Experience
The Girlfriend Experience (2009)
The Informant! (2009)
And Everything Is Going Fine
And Everything Is Going Fine (2010)
Magic Mike (2012)
Side Effects (2013)
Behind the Candelabra
Behind the Candelabra (2013)
Logan Lucky (2017)
High Flying Bird (2019)
The Daytrippers (1996)
Welcome to Collinwood
Welcome to Collinwood (2002)
The Jacket (2005)
Solitary Man (2009)
Ocean's 8 (2018)
K Street (2003)
The Knick (2014–15)
The Girlfriend Experience
The Girlfriend Experience (2016–pres