There was a time when Mark Twain was Samuel Clemens, when Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay Jr. and when Madonna still had a last name. Likewise, before “Che” Guevara was a world-renowned Cuban revolutionary, he was merely Ernesto, an average 23-year-old from a middle-class Argentinean family. However, when he planned a motorcycle trip across South America with his friend, Alberto Granado, he set the stage for his transformation into Che, the revolutionary.
Walter Salles’ 2004 biopic “The Motorcycle Diaries” seems like a typical buddy/road movie not much different from Alfonso CuarÃ³n’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” Gael Garcia Bernal’s breakthrough film. Ernesto (played by Mexican heartthrob Bernal) and Alberto start out looking for casual sex, excitement and adventure. However, when they are exposed to the realities of poverty and disease up close, Ernesto undergoes a spiritual transformation, foreshadowing Ernesto’s morph into Che.Much of the film is steeped in realism. The screenplay is based on Guevara’s diary of this trip, which was discovered after his death; “Traveling with Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary,” Granado’s written take of their joint journey; and lengthy interviews with Granado. As part of his own research, Salles retraced Guevara and Granado’s steps on his own trip through South America.
During the filming, Bernal was exactly the same age as Guevara at the time of his expedition, and he read the same French existentialist writers that Guevara would have read at the time. In addition, Salles was able to film in many of the exact places Guevara and Granado visited; locals filled many small and non-speaking roles, and some of the dialogue was improvised. In addition, Granado is played by Argentinean actor Rodrigo de la Serna, Che’s real-life cousin. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: this film represents Bernal’s second time as Che – he also played him in “Fidel,” a television mini-series.
The film will be shown in its original language, Spanish, with English subtitles.
“The Motorcycle Diaries” will be screened four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5 for everyone else. The Monday showing only will feature speaker Viviana Peiretti, who will provide an introduction to the film and lead a discussion afterward.
For more information, call the Department of Communication at x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS Web page: www.culturalfilms.villanova.edu.