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Oscar night; but where's Che?


Where was he on Oscar night?I guess I’m a little late with commentary on Oscar nominations, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I saw The Motorcycle Diaries. I’m let down that it wasn’t nominated for something more substantial than ‘Best Song’ or ‘Best Screenplay.’ I’m glad that ‘Al Otro Lado del Rio’ won, despite Antonio Banderas’ mangling the sweet melody!

The Motorcycle Diaries could have been a contender in the Best Foreign Film category, but at a time when Terri Schiavo is still fighting for her right to die—or her husband, rather, is fighting for that right—I’m glad that The Sea Inside won. Let’s just get Schiavo’s parents to sit down and watch it. By the way, if you didn’t already know, ‘schiavo’ means ‘slave’ in Italian. Every time I read something about her, I think that she is both a slave to the machines that keep her alive and to the political struggle around what should be a private issue.

Anyway, back to the Diaries.

Why was it not nominated? It got overwhelmingly good reviews. Beautiful cinematography of evocative scenery. Great acting by the two leads. Gael García Bernal ain’t too hard to look at either! The genres of “road movie,” “buddy movie,” and “coming of age story” are dressed up and given an international twist. You laugh. You think. You might cry. I loved the part in which Che gets his nickname. I had never known how he got that or what it meant. Since my husband does a hilarious Argentine accent, mostly imitating soccer commentators, I had heard the word “che” many times before, not thinking about what it meant, if anything!

And the story. If you watch the 90 or so minutes of this film, you will enjoy the story of a young Ernesto Guevara shaking the cobwebs from his middle-class upbringing. But maybe it’s what came after in his life that kept this film from being nominated. “The story of a cruel and violent Communist? We can’t have that at the Oscars!” Would we enjoy a movie that tells the story of the young, aspiring Austrian artist who grows up to be Hitler? I don’t know. But there’s several enormous differences between Che and Adolph.

There was really nothing in The Motorcycle Diaries that let the viewer know what kind of Communist young Ernesto would grow up to be. We see the start of his transformation and completely without feeling manipulated ourselves, we start to think about the distribution of land and wealth all over the world. We think a bit more about American history—and by ‘American,’ I’m talking about two continents and not one country. Is the movie something people like me enjoy because it assuages our Liberal, bourgeois guilt? Maybe. But I’m not like the kids you see all over Europe with their Che T-shirts, posters, car decals, etc. I know enough about Che to admire what he stood for and also be disappointed that he chose the methods he did to accomplish his goals.

As for the film not being political enough—something one reads in the reviews—I’m fine with that. Critics and moviegoers in the US need to perhaps learn a little bit about subtlety. I’m happy we weren’t beat over the heads with the “I’m gonna be a Communist!” theme that the movie could have exploited.

For much harsher commentary, read this on





March 2005

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