El Crazy Che Image

El Crazy Che

By Josiah Teal | October 26, 2021

Dreaming of a Communist revolution Bill Gaede has been smuggling U.S. tech secrets for years. After his arrest and 33 months in prison, Gaede claims he worked for the FBI during his years of misdeeds. El Crazy Che documents the exploits of Gaede’s career of betrayal, lies, double-crosses, turncoat agents, and industrial espionage. Framed like a 1970s spy flick crammed into a 90s tech thriller, Pablo Chehebar and Nicolas Iacouzzi’s documentary seeks to showcase the truth behind the man’s tenure as a rogue spy.

Bill Gaede grew up idolizing the likes of Fidel Castro and his Communist ideology in his early teens. Then, reaching adulthood, he found himself in Silicon Valley at the brink of the computer boom. Embarking on a journey towards Communist revolution, Gaede sought out the Cuban government to steal U.S. technology in hopes of evening the odds in the Cold War. But after a visit to Cuba, Gaede becomes disillusioned with Castro’s brand of Communism and becomes an agent/informant for the FBI. Well, at least that is his version of the story. 

The co-writers/co-directors make good use of archived footage and animation to tell a complex story. Due to a creative approach to the documentary format, Chehebar and Nicolas Iacouzzi helm a twisting tale of half-truths and treachery in a palatable way. However, due to the shifting narrative and timeline of events, the film has difficulty setting up the tone. At times Gaede is painted as a larger-than-life James Bond-esque character but, it is difficult to make someone appear likable when, in the beginning, we hear him state that friends and family are distractions.

“…Gaede sought out the Cuban government to steal U.S. technology…”

The heart of the issue with El Crazy Che is its tone. Gaede admits to having “Casadnra’s syndrome,” or the belief that no one will believe you. Even having background information on the International Espionage Act of 1996 and Gaede, it was tough for me to buy into many of his claims of greatness. I knew the story already, but the documentary offers little reasoning for Gaede’s crimes. This would not be a problem if they were telling a story like The Imposter, where you are lured in by the main character. Instead, the filmmakers seek to justify Gaede’s plans to sell international secrets as almost redeemable. Whether Gaede’s testimony or the documentary is the gospel truth or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is can this movie convince you? With this evidence as presented under this style of direction, it is a difficult sell.

I love documentaries and being manipulated by a great spy film. However, there is a difference between being manipulated and being lied to. I felt like a lot of the narrative was disingenuous. Pablo Chehebar and Nicolas Iacouzzi are determined to paint Gaede as a Robert Redford style hero, but instead, he comes across more like a pseudo-D.B. Cooper. The movie has the right pieces for an intriguing, real-life spy thriller but, it’s tough to enjoy when your “B.S. detector” is working overtime.

Like I said everything, in El Crazy Che might be true; I may even believe half of it. However, the way the information is presented fills me with a lot of doubt. The result is a film that sounds exaggerated, farfetched, and (perhaps its worst sin) lacking the charm or panache to make me care either way.

El Crazy Che (2021)

Directed and Written: Pablo Chehebar, Nicolas Iacouzzi

Starring: Bill Gaede, Jose Arenas, Bob Coiteaux, Liliana Fragigi, Alejandro Gaede, Etsuko Gaede, Guillermo Bill Gaede, etc.

Movie score: 2/10

El Crazy Che Image

"…has the right pieces for an intriguing, real-life spy thriller..."

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