CHE is a two-part 2008 biopic about Argentine
Ernesto "Che" Guevara , directed by
Steven Soderbergh and starring
Benicio del Toro
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 on
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
entitled Guerrilla and focuses on Guevara\'s attempt to bring
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 and 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 days.
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
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. The film was released as two separate films,
Che Part 1: The Argentine and
Che Part 2: Guerrilla, and
distribution expanded further after that.
The Independent Film Channel
released the films via video on demand and on Region 1
from Blockbuster .
Che Parts I and II have grossed nearly USD$41
million, against a budget of USD$58 million.
* 1 Plot
* 1.1 Part 1: The Argentine
* 1.2 Part 2: Guerrilla
* 2 Cast
* 3 Production
* 3.1 Development
* 3.2 Screenplay
* 3.3 Financing
* 3.4 Principal photography
* 4 Distribution
* 4.1 Screenings
* 5 Reception
* 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
* 6 Awards
* 7 Home media
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 External links
Cuban Revolution and
Bolivian Insurgency (1966–1967)
Bolivian Insurgency (1966–1967)
PART 1: THE ARGENTINE
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
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
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
Rodrigo Santoro as
Santiago Cabrera as
Franka Potente as Tamara "Tania" Bunke
Gastón Pauls as Ciro Bustos (el Argentino)
Catalina Sandino Moreno as
Julia Ormond as Lisa Howard
Oscar Isaac as U.N. Interpreter and film narrator
Lou Diamond Phillips as
Benjamín Benítez as
Harry "Pombo" Villegas
Armando Riesco as Benigno
Elvira Mínguez as
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
Che was intended to be a much more traditional film based
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
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 action figure,
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
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
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
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 budget.
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,
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
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."
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
Bolivia in disguise.
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 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
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 only
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
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
Che was screened on 21 May at the 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
New York Film Festival and was shown at the 33rd Toronto
International Film Festival as
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 on 1 November 2008 as part of
the AFI Fest.
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 "blue-chip ".
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 music.
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 dream movie".
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 forget it".
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
The New York Times , based on a screening at the
New York Film Festival
New York Film Festival ,
Manohla Dargis observes that "throughout the
movie Mr. Soderbergh mixes the wild beauty of his landscapes with
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" as "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
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
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
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 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
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* Official website
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* Che: Part Two