Last night I watched a documentary by Spanish writer/director, Paco Ignacio Taibo II. On Netflix, the title is simply, El Che. I specify Netflix (where I watched it) because it appears to have various other titles overseas.
Taibo is definitely a fan of Che, who remains one of the most iconic figures of the late 20th century and Che is still an inspiration to many people. I like the way Taibo starts this film, by explaining that every people need a myth. This is part of being human and every society is entitled. I think Joseph Campbell would agree.
Taibo follows the paths that Che took in his life, in the order he took them. Basically, he followed in Che’s footsteps. And what is revealed is a wanderer, an adventurer, who somewhere along the way, discovered a greater purpose in life.
We see the actual room where Che and Castro first met. The sites of Che’s great military victories and of course the place where he was ambushed and captured. We see where his body was sprawled out for villagers after he was executed at behest of the C.I.A. I was reminded that the world changes course in some very obscure places.
During the film, we are exposed to Che’s family life. The subject of mistresses isn’t touched on (probably should’ve been) or what his relationship was with his children and wives. I suspect Taibo would’ve been pushing his luck to try and obtain that kind of cooperation. However, it was the one area where I wish I knew more. Fortunately, both his wives wrote books.
As it is, we are introduced to leading figures who fought alongside Che during the revolution. We also meet boyhood and school friends and see rare photos. You do walk away from this movie with a greater sense of who Che was as a person.
There is a lot of pro and con about Che out there. Sometimes, you have to look at the source. Yeah, Cuban exiles probably don’t have a lot of good things to say. On the other hand, many of those families had a stake in the dictatorship that was overthrown by the revolution. Did Che really have those people executed in the Cuban political prison? Those in the movie who probably had first-hand knowledge say he didn’t. Those who hate him, say he did. We may never know for sure.
What we do know is that Che was a doctor dedicated to the poor. He actually lived with and treated a leper colony. He believed in manual labor, even after ascending to power he spent time among laborers erecting schools. He was one of those rare leaders who lived as the people he served. Maybe because of this, his legend, more than just about anyone else’s from this period, will be sustained.
While there were some subjects I wish the movie had delved deeper into, this film is definitely worth the time. It gives you a chance to hear from those who participated in events and to get a glimpse of the era that forged one of the greatest historical figures of the modern age. Definite 5 of 5 on the rating scale.