12 May 2012 | hof-4
Che: A New Man is an outstanding documentary on the life and ideas of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara ("Che" means "Argentinian" in Cuba and other Latin American countries; the word is constantly used in many ways in Argentine speech).
The film contains newsreel footage (some not seen before) and benefits from new, recently available sources, in particular 8mm footage from his childhood, documents and film contributed by Che's Cuban wife Aleida March and diverse sealed materials made available recently by Bolivian president Evo Morales (research was done by Carolina Scaglione). The film's take is balanced; it shows Guevara's total commitment to his principles until death, but also his warm personality as a family man (his writings on his mother are moving, and he was devoted to his Cuban family to the last). It also shows Guevara's unwillingness to compromise to the point of fanaticism; for him, even the few steps backwards taken by Lenin in his New Economic Policy of 1921 were a betrayal of the Russian Revolution, and the Soviet government of Nikita Khrushchev was hopelessly bourgeois. In the process we learn from newsreels (if we didn't know already) that Guevara was a brilliant public speaker, that his screen (and personal) presence was intense, and that his Spanish prose is up to the best (he also wrote poetry).
Che's standing in history has suffered dramatic changes. At the time of his death in Bolivia after a failed guerrilla campaign, Latin America was groaning under a chain of right-wing US supported regimes which saw Guevara as an interloper, a misguided ideologue, a communist (communism understood as a sickness or a perversion). After his death his prestige rose exponentially. In today's mostly democratic Latin America Che is a symbol of liberation, including in countries whose government is far from left-wing. Interest in Che is not limited to Latin America; in 2004 Robert Redford was executive producer of the excellent "The Motorcycle Diaries", directed by Brazilian Walter Salles, which documents Che's 1952 road trip north from Argentina to Venezuela with friend Alberto Granado, a trip that was instrumental in the formation of his revolutionary conscience. In 2008 Steven Soderbergh directed the no less excellent "Che" (parts 1 and 2) on Guevara's entire life as a revolutionary.
Che's aspiration was the liberation of Latin America. He spoke of "la Patria Grande", the Great Homeland, all Latin American countries united as one, master of its own resources (in Che's time mostly in foreign hands), a country that would offer equal opportunities to all its citizens. He foresaw this transformation achieved by armed struggle. Ironically, some of Che's aspirations are coming true (perhaps haltingly and with occasional steps backwards) by nonviolent, democratic means.
Argentine director Tristán Bauer, born in 1959 is credited with nine movies, seven of them documentaries. He attained international recognition with his fiction work Iluminados por el Fuego (Illuminated by the Fire, 2005) on the aftermath of the Malvinas/Falklands war. This film received major film prizes in America and Europe, including the Special Jury Prize in San Sebastián 2005 and Best Fiction Film in New York's Tribeca Festival 2006. Che: a New Man received the award for Best Documentary in the 2010 World Film Festival in Montréal.
Even if you have seen the movies by Salles and Soderbergh, watch Che: a New Man. It will give you a more complete, rounded view of Ernesto "Che" Guevara.