The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
The Motorcycle Diaries tells the story of a life-changing journey that future Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado made on a motorcycle through South America in 1952. At the time, Guevara was 23 years old, and Granado was 29. They set out to see the continent that they called home, but had really only experienced through books, but they ended up irrevocably changed by the South America that they found.
Guevara is played by Gael Garcia Bernal, who Mexican film fans will know from Y Tu Mama Tambien and Amores Perros, and Granado is played by Rodrigo de la Serna in his film debut. The two young men, Guevara a medical student and Granado a biochemist, set out on this journey for the sake of traveling and maybe meeting some girls along the way. The plan is to ride "The Mighty One," Granado's less-than-pristine motorcycle from their native Argentina, up the coast of Chile, through Peru, and ending up in Venezuela for Granado's 30th birthday.
Carrying almost no cash with them, they pose as prominent Argentinian doctors in order to get food and shelter along the way. Eventually, "The Mighty One" breaks down, and their pace slows as they make the decision to continue on foot. Here they end up inadvertantly meeting the South America that isn't described in books, poverty-stricken folks who are essentially homeless in their own land, desperate for work so they can provide for their families. Guevara and Granado end up at a leper colony in San Pablo, Peru, where Guevara notes that the Amazon River divides the ill and the healthy, and he realizes that this is not the only division he has noticed. There is a ton of injustice in the world, and Guevara is learning that maybe he needs to do something about it.
The Motorcycle Diaries isn't so much about Che Guevara as it is about the plight of the poor people in the world. What we see in South America, through Guevara's eyes, are people without any opportunity to make any advances because of political divisions. These people can work all their lives and make no progress. It really makes you think about all of things in life that we take for granted, and think that maybe there's something that each one of us can do to make things better. Or at least we can try.
I'm no expert on the life of Che Guevara, but he later became an associate of Castro and helped lead the revolution in Cuba that installed a Communist government. Some may say that he took his ideals too far, but this film is not concerned with that part of Guevara's life. The part of his life that is depicted in The Motorcycle Diaries certainly paints him as brash and idealistic and serves to show that it is important to stand up for what you believe in, and not simply let your world dictate who you are. Unfortunately for the people of Cuba, Guevara was later more interested in dictating what was right for them than letting them do so for themselves.
April 10, 2005