Posted by: Ali | February 24, 2010

Movie: The Motorcycle Diaries

Diarios de Motocicleta [The Motorcycle Diaries], 2004, directed by Walter Salles; originally in Spanish

The Motorcycle Diaries is a movie about the journey that Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado go on across Latin America before Che becomes a revolutionary.  It’s not strictly Peruvian, since Che, or Ernesto (his real name) as he is called in the movie, is actually Argentinian, and ended up becoming famous as a Cuban revolutionary.  However, most of the movie takes place travelling throughout the Andes, which is thematically similar to Peru.  Ernesto and Alberto spend most of their time during the movie in the countries of Argentina, Chile, and then Peru, clearly saving the best for last.

The movie depicts how Ernesto, an upper-class medical student, learns and changes along his journey.  His eyes are opened to the injustice that exists throughout the continent.  With that in mind, the movie does do an excellent job of depicting that injustice still present today in South America: of farmers kicked off their land just as soon as it was producing crops so that someone more powerful could move in and reap the rewards; of upper-class families too elitist to allow a traveler a place to sleep on their property; of nuns who cook meals for the poor but only those who attend mass; of people fired from their jobs and pursued by the police for being communists.

I will confess to having attempted to watch this movie several years ago, only to have turned it off for being too foreign, too subtitled, and too slow.  The movie is admittedly low on action but is, now that I can appreciate this sort of thing, an excellent movie – well acted and beautifully shot.  The characters are sympathetic and, most importantly, Peru plays a prominent role.  Machu Picchu steals the scene when the travelers arrive there, and Che ponders, “How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?”


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