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By Phil Hall | March 6, 2010

Douglas Duarte and Adriana Marino helmed this loose-limbed, almost plotless video essay on how today’s world worships Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

What fascinates people about Guevara is not the sum of his work, but the look on his face: the most popular image of Guevara is the iconic 1960 photograph by Alberto Korda, still being reproduced in staggering and often unintentionally funny ways, including bobblehead figurines.  However, it appears that few people are genuinely aware of what Guevara sought to accomplish in his lifetime – a pair of New Yorkers identify the Argentine Marxist leader as a “Cuban refugee.”

In this film, Duarte and Marino visit four continents where Guevara’s image is used to support a wild variety of unlikely causes: Bolivian women who seek heavenly intervention by kneeling in prayer before his photograph, East Los Angeles muralists who use him as a symbol to encourage the advocacy of civil rights, a Hong Kong legislator who taps his spirit to further pro-democracy laws, and German ultra-nationalists who wear t-shirts featuring the Korda image.

What is the appeal?  British writer Christopher Hitchens tartly notes that Guevara’s good looks (not his good works) have ensured his cult following. “If he looked like Sancho Panza,” he observes, “we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

To their credit, Duarte and Marino locate a pair of Bolivian women who were among the last to see Guevara before his 1967 burial – the nurse who washed his executed body before it was put on public display and a teacher who snipped a lock of his hair while paying last respects.  There is also very rare footage of the slain Guevara on display, which provides a strikingly different image of the revolutionary leader.

Biographer Jon Lee Anderson points out, “Che speaks for everyone,” even though what people are hearing are actually their own voices.

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  1. Mark Bell says:

    Larry, Melissa, Phyllis, Sara, VivaChe, Jonathon O, Paloma and Marcos… how many comment accounts does one ip address need? You dig Che, I get it, but this went right beyond ridiculous into “can’t post anymore comments from your ip” silly…

  2. LarryL says:

    Awesome Douglas, Thanks. I would surely purchase the DVD. What could we do to help? Email the distributor and tell them to hurry up with the DVD?

  3. To all interested: the film is available on DocChannel and likely soon on DVD. It would help to put pressure on the US distributors, 7th Art Entertainment.

    Thanks for the review!

  4. Melissa says:

    Che was hot.

  5. Phyllis says:

    Where can I watch or purchase this film. I’ve been trying to see it for quite some time now?

    I recently saw the film Chevolution which looked at the image itself and found the topic fascinating.

  6. Sara says:

    I’ve always been interested in semiotics and thus been fascinated by the transformation of Che the man into Che the brand.

    The image seems to operate independently of the person.

    Michael Casey’s book “Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image” was also a great read on the phenomenom.

  7. VivaChe says:

    Trailer for the recent two part biopic ‘CHE’ starring Benicio del Toro

    = one of the best movies of the last decade in my opinion.

  8. Jonathan O says:

    If anyone is truly interested in the life of the guerrilla icon Che – I would suggest you read the 800 + page definitive biography ~ ‘Che Guevara: a Revolutionary Life’ by Jon Lee Anderson.

    … It is an investment in time, but you won’t regret one second of it. A first class biography by a world class journalist, which is unparalleled in its scholarship and accessibility.

  9. Paloma says:

    To me Che Guevara is one of the most heroic figures in world history who is a stoic example of what all those who speak of “revolution” should espouse to be.

    This was a man who left a bourgeoisie comfortable life of the upper class, a potential well compensated career as a medical doctor, and a high regarded governmental position, each time to slog through the jungle and fight guerrilla wars against impenetrable odds = for a better and more equitable society.

    Throughout his life Che tended to thousands of sick campesinos, helped construct dozens of schools throughout Cuba, worked in a Leper colony to helped those afflicted, and even when he was literally tied up in a small mud school house awaiting his own execution ! , still complained to the local teacher that in a nation where the leaders drove Mercedes … it was a travesty that the peasants were taught in a dilapidated place like he was in.

    If the world had 100 Che’s, or hell even 10, I believe we would be in much better shape.

    Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

  10. Marcos says:

    “Che’s life is an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom, we will always honor his memory.” — Nelson Mandela

  11. Mike says:

    It amuses me that the homicidal Stalinist fanatic Che would have executed the young pimple faced leftist idiots who fashionably emblazon his likeness on their chest. What a bunch of crowd following lemmings. Oh, the irony.

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