El Che: Investigating a Legend (1997)

“His absolute distaste for the slightest privilege.”

The documentary film El Che: Investigating a Legend is an overview of Guevara’s life. The film plots Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna’s early life, includes rare footage of his middle-class childhood in Argentina, and charts his revolutionary career up to his death in Bolivia in 1967 at the age of 39. The documentary blends interviews, photo stills, music and narrative to create a fascinating picture of Che. These interviews include personal details and memories from family members, fellow guerilla fighters, political figures, and some footage includes speeches made by Che.

A fair portion of the documentary examines Che’s childhood, and his struggle with asthma. This early exposure to disease, the film argues, led to Che’s interest in medicine, and his determination to become a Dr. But Che left his entire medical career behind, and he was soon devoted to politics. From his youth, Che maintained the view that the “designated enemy is Imperialism.” The film explores Che’s political career, his friendship with Fidel Castro, his role in the guerilla war against the Batista government of Cuba, and Che’s subsequent role in Castro’s Cuban government. Che is shown to be an intelligent man, with an incredible amount of personal discipline. He was devoted to social reform, and possibly at his very best when he was a guerrilla fighter in the jungle–here he established literacy programmes, a radio station, and guerrilla training camps.

The latter part of the documentary–and arguably the most fascinating section–describes Che’s role in the new Cuban government, and the portrait shown is a man still devoted to social revolution. But Che–although a Marxist–didn’t appear to ‘fit in’ to the new Soviet-influenced Cuba, and this resulted in an odyssey for Che that ended with his death in Bolivia a few years later. There is one great scene of an empty chair next to Castro, and this was footage taken when many were speculating about Che’s whereabouts. These final years and Che’s death are clouded with different versions of events, but the true version of Che’s death seems quite clear from the interviews in the documentary.

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Filed under Documentary, Political/social films

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