An FNB Win
About This Issue
NET BRIEFS ON GREEK UPRISING
NET BRIEFS ON GREEK UPRISING
Bruce E. Levine
3 PIC Books
Roediger On Race
Gabriel San román
ON SECOND STREET
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On the Roadshow with Che
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
The revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara is back on the road once more. He returns not on a motorcycle or a small yacht, but on the silver screen. Che, played by Benicio del Toro, opened in late December for a special Oscar-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles. Director Steven Soderbergh's two-part film, "The Argentine" and "The Guerrilla," is largely historically faithful to Che at his most revolutionary and alive. Though the film is well over four hours long and entirely in Spanish, the general intrigue of the chief protagonist is enough to command the audience's attention.
Part one is the story of Che's first venture into guerrilla warfare in a fight to the death against the island's dictator, Flugencio Batista. Focused on the struggle in the mountainside, "The Argentine" is told with accompanying black and white scenes from Che's December 11, 1964 address to the United Nations, along with interviews and flashbacks of his conversations in Mexico with a young, arrogant exiled Cuban lawyer Fidel Castro. Though the focus of part one is disciplined in its attentiveness to Che, the film introduces the audience to all the principle players in the watershed revolution—Raul Castro, Vilma Espin, Celia Sanchez, and Aleida March (Che's future wife), and masterful portraits of Fidel Castro (Demian Bichir) and Camilo Cienfuegos (Santiago Cabrera). Del Toro, who bears a striking resemblance to Che, won Best Actor in Cannes for a role he said he'd never imagined taking on.
With such a portrayal in mind, "The Argentine," is perhaps the most unromantic rendering of one the most romanticized figures in the history of the world. The story of Che as a guerrilla fighter is lionized for the decision to leave the comforts of civilian life behind to fight for one's ideals. In part one we see the daily ins and outs of guerrilla warfare. We see the Argentine-born revolutionary engaged in skirmishes, giving medical treatment to peasants, teaching them mathematics, harshly disciplining his subordinates as a comandante, and suffering from crippling asthma. The pace quickens as Che's most definitive victory is retold when his column helps derail a train with military supplies for Batista's men in Santa Clara on December 29, 1958. With that blow, the revolution is essentially won, and part one comes to a close—oddly, without the scenes of jubilation in the streets of Havana.
Part two, "The Guerrilla," opens with Bichir as Fidel skillfully recreating the historic televised speech Castro gave as he read a private letter from Che renouncing his Cuban citizenship to participate in armed struggle abroad. The film skips Che's activities in the Congo and arrives in 1966 with preparations for a plot to hatch revolution in Bolivia. A disguised Che readies himself to depart from his family. Few emotions are displayed save for a moment of silent hand-holding with his wife. Once in Bolivia, the scene is quite different than in Cuba. The greenery of the Sierra Maestra is replaced with the autumnal shrubbery of the Bolivian lowlands. The new cast of characters, including Mario Monje, Tania, Regis Debray, Ciro Bustos, Inti, and Coco Peredo are introduced. Lou Diamond Phillips, portraying Monje, the Bolivian Communist Party leader, elicited laughter from Latino audience members who still see him as La Bamba's Ritchie Valens.
"The Guerrilla," like part one, largely remains faithful to history. Monje is shown to be non-cooperative in supporting the armed struggle. Tania, Ciro Bustos, and French philosopher Regis Debray fail Guevara in his attempt to transform South America from its heart in Bolivia. The peasantry, who were essential in the Cuban revolution, do not join Guevara's National Liberation Army en masse or at all. Benecio del Toro transmits a frustrated revolutionary whose asthma is crippling, whose temperament is faltering, and who is ultimately defeated. The death of Che is the most emotionally gripping part of "The Guerrilla." In history, his demise always provokes solemn reflection with the footage of Che lying dead with eyes agape. In retelling the moment, Soderbergh elected to forgo that searing imagery and some of the most gripping dialogue as well. Gone is the political conversation between a captured Che and a Bolivian school teacher in La Higuera, as is the image of a drunken soldier who trembles to execute him before Che bursts out, "Shoot coward."
Despite those omissions, Soderbergh skillfully crafts an emotional crescendo in his epic. With Mercedes Sosa singing in the background, Che is taken out in a stretcher covered with an Andean blanket to be transported in a helicopter to Vallegrande. Che's dream of a united Latin America free from capitalism comes to an end, as does the film.
By mostly adhering to pages of Che's diaries, Soderbergh illustrates the guerrilla through his own eyes. If Che were alive, he would probably enjoy this cinematic portrayal of his life more than anyone else, as such life-or-death moments of intense human solidarity were his peak experiences. However, for audiences who crave a complex political and emotional rendering of the man behind the myth, Soderbergh's Che will leave them with a sense that something is missing. Guevara's years as a statesperson are almost entirely omitted, as is a deep and more controversial examination of his core Marxist ideals. The filmmakers avoided any serious shades of criticism with their by-the-book or, in this case, by-the-diary approach.
In the end, even a four and a-half hour film of Che Guevara's attempts at armed revolution in Latin America is insufficient. The task of fully assessing this 20th century icon of rebellion is seemingly impossible. Soderbergh's Che is a historically accurate retelling of Guevara's life in the Cuban Revolution and attempted revolution in Bolivia. Soderbergh's offering, which joins the multitude of documentaries and the numerous literary treatments of Guevara, points to the one word best fit to describe the life of Che: voluminous.
Gabriel San Roman co-produces "Uprising Radio" heard on Pacifica stations KPFK Los Angeles, KPFA Berkeley, and KPFT in Houston. He is currently writing a play based on the first wife of Che Guevara, Hilda Gadea, for the Santa Ana-based Breath of Fire Latina Theater Company.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; email@example.com; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; email@example.com; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: email@example.com; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.