Did you know there is a movie coming out about murderous commie thug Che? I didn’t either until I read this article.
I have three comments on this:
1) I love how the article is structured! Having the Hollywood types give their opinion and then having responses from Cubans who were chased out of their country at gun point by Che’s buds is a great way of getting saying “Who are you going to believe the Hollywood story or those lying facts?”
2) Sodenburg kind of scares me:
“I’ve had people ask me: ‘How can you make a movie about a murderer? A terrorist?’” he said. “What they don’t understand is that I’m in support of everyone who appears on screen. I have to be. I take the position of everyone who’s on screen. I’m not judging them one way or another.”
At the same time, Mr. Soderbergh seems to harbor few illusions about just who Guevara was.
“I don’t know that there’s any place for a person like me in the society that he was trying to make,” the director said. “I’m the poster child for a lot of the [stuff] that he was trying to eradicate.”
That’s great, being objective is our friend. But um the key to that is giving both sides, which based on this article the movie doesn’t appear to do. Which begs the question, um why not be actually objective? If he knows Che was a murdering thug, why not portray that? What is his objective in doing the white wash? Is it just to sell tickets to stupid middle class white kids who don’t understand who Che was? If so, well I can appreciate the irony of exploiting Che’s image for the sake of making money, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As we will see in point number 3, there is a lot of ignorance out there and while I certainly wouldn’t want any kind of legal requirement to educate the idiots, I think you have an ethical obligation when you make a historical movie to be I don’t know, historically accurate? This movie is going to be the basis of many many peoples knowledge of Che and teaching them false history to make money is not really a good thing, something about those who don’t understand the past being doomed to repeat it.
3) Benicio Del Toro is dumber than a box of hair. He not only seems to be ignorant of the basic history:
“Not knowing much about the history of Cuba, the history of Che, not being taught anything about it,” Mr. del Toro says of his motivation for helping to bring the picture to fruition. “The image that I have or what has been told to me about this character is that he’s kind of a cowboy – a bloodthirsty cowboy.”
But also seems to be incapabe of even grasping what the controvery is about.
Mr. del Toro doesn’t deny that Guevara’s persona had some darker aspects. “We have to omit a lot of stuff about his life,” he said, “but we’re not omitting the fact that he’s for capital punishment, which is the essence of that.”
Ummm no, that really isn’t the essence, any more than the essence of the holocaust was that Hitler was for capital punishment. If we adopted Del Toro’s position wed be forced to draw a moral equivalence between Hitler, Bush, Stalin, Clinton, Pol Pot and Obama, because, hey they all support capital punishment right? And that is the essence of the issue afterall.
In the movie, Guevara is shown executing a man. But the man is executed for raping a child, not for being disloyal to the cause of revolution. Troops are offered a chance to desert, and get nothing more than a scolding for their cowardice.
Mr. Valladares is less convinced of Guevara’s dedication to due process.
“Che Guevara executed dozens and dozens of people who never once stood trial and were never declared guilty,” he said. “In his own words, he said the following: ‘At the smallest of doubt we must execute.’ And that’s what he did at the Sierra Maestra and the prison of Las Cabanas.”
“They didn’t do it blindly; they had trials,” Mr. del Toro said. “They found them guilty, and they executed them – that’s capital punishment.”
But Mr. Radosh said it wasn’t as simple as that.
“Huber Matos was guilty of nothing,” he said. Mr. Matoswas a commandant under Fidel Castro, one of the revolutionary’s earliest followers and a fervent enemy of the Batista regime. But he was no communist, and when he saw where the country was headed, he wanted out.
“He didn’t even want to go into opposition,” said Mr. Radosh. “He simply said, ‘I don’t like the direction of the government, I don’t want to be part of the government, I’ll voluntarily relinquish my command.’ He was convicted of treason, and after a sham trial that Fidel presided over, was sent to prison for a 25- to 30-year sentence.”
Guevara was instrumental in the creation of Cuba’s forced labor camps, which were used to imprison and extract work from those who had committed no crimes but were thought to be insufficiently revolutionary.
The policy of extrajudicial imprisonment that Guevara favored would later expand to include political activists of all stripes, musicians, artists, homosexuals and others deemed to be dangerous to the maintenance of the Stalinist regime.
Mr. del Toro grew agitated when these prisons were described as “concentration camps,” a phrase that Mr. Valladares freely employs.
“I’m a survivor of those concentration camps. And I stand firm by my belief that they were concentration camps,” he said. “The forced labor camps where I also worked, where dozens and dozens of political prisoners were murdered, where thousands were tortured, that’s something that even the most ardent believers in Castro´s tyranny can’t deny.”
Critics of “Che” have suggested that the film whitewashes its protagonist’s legacy and that it’s impossible to understand the man by glorifying his more romantic aspects while ignoring his darker side.
“We can’t cover it all,” Mr. del Toro said. “You can make your own movie. You know? You can make your own movie. And let’s see. Do the research.”
Mr. Valladares is afraid that Mr. del Toro and Mr. Soderbergh’s film will make people forget the reality that was Che Guevara’s life.
“Benicio del Toro is just one of the many accomplices of the Cuban tyranny,” he said. “All the murderers of people have had accomplices and people who made excuses for them. Stalin had them, Hitler had them, Pinochet had them, all the dictators have had apologists for them. Che Guevara and Fidel Castro also had them.”
I believe the phrase Mr. Valladares is looking for is “useful idiots”. Since Del Toro seems to like moral equivalency so much, ill play the game with him. His making this movie, if it is as whitewashed as it appears (I haven’t seen it, since its not out to my knowledge) then he is the moral equivalent of a Nazi propagandist. Making a whitewashed movie to glorify a guy who helped violently spread an ideology which slaughtered upwards of 100 million people in the name of equality, is morally no different than making a white washed moved about a guy who helped violently spread an ideology which killed upwards of 100 million people in the name of racism.