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Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)

July 29, 2007

Title: Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)

Language: Spanish
Country: International Co-Production comprising several countries from South America
Year of Release: 2004
Director: Walter Salles
Actors: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna
Awards: Oscar; Best Original Song Jorge Drexler; for the song “Al Otro Lado Del Río”; 2005) and several other awards…Click here for the complete list

I am not from South America. I am not a Communist or a Socialist…I don’t know which ideology I support. I quite rarely follow music or pop culture…and one fine day, I saw a picture of a man in his 30’s sporting a beard with a posture that can’t be easily forgotten, I became curious and asked my friend, “Who is he?”….To be honest, that look from my friend suggested that I was the most illiterate person on Earth at that moment and how I could be so ignorant. Nevertheless, he was kind enough to enlighten me and said….”Dude, that’s Che Guevera-The Cuban Revolutionary!” And couple of years ago, when I was in college, a friend of mine told me that there’s a new movie on campus which is about Che, and also that it’s brilliant. That day, when I saw this movie “Motorcycle Diaries”, I understood the passion behind his work and how events around you can change your perspective of life and thereafter your life itself.

Directed by Walter Salles, this 2004 flick is based on Diarios de motocicleta by Guevara, and Con el Che por America Latina by Alberto Granado (Che’s friend). It’s an international co-production with most of the South American countries being a part of it, and in Spanish language, which I presume more or less most of these countries speak or atleast understand. The story is about two friends Che Guevara played by Gael García Bernal and Alberto Granado played by Rodrigo de la Serna.

In 1952, just a semester before Che’s graduation from medicine, he and Alberto decide to go on a journey from Buenos Aries (Argentina) all the way to a leper colony in Peru, finally ending their journey in Venezuela on Alberto’s motorcycle, a Norton 500 motorcycle which he calls “La Pedarosa”. Che convinces his father about his journey and they start moving south of Buenos Aires, reaching Miramar where Che spends sometime with his girlfriend and promises that he would soon come back for her. Later, they enter Chile and while travelling through the country, he receives a letter from his girlfriend that she cannot wait any longer. Upon reaching a town in Chile, they come to know that their motorcycle has completely broken down and from there on they continue the rest of the journey on foot. While traveling through Atacama Desert, they come across a couple, from whom Che learns that they were being tormented because of their affiliations towards Communism and the only place where they can have some work is the mines. From then on, they come across lot of locals who tell their economic and social problems. Finally, they reach Macchu Picchu, where they are just dumbstruck to see how the course of humanity had changed in a brief period of time; a civilization which was capable of building something like that, completely wiped out and started building a different city, Lima(Peru). There in Peru, they meet a professor who tells them about the basic problem of the locals is that they don’t have their own land and also their rights are suppressed. From there on, Che begins to see life differently, as someone who tries to understand the problem of those around him and treat them with love and care..especially after the duo reaches the Leper Colony on the Amazon coast in Peru. His days in the leper colony bring a lot of change and one fine day, he becomes so emotionally attached to the people that he plans to drop his Medicine plans and do something which he’s thinking about now.
Here in Peru he celebrates his birthday and while making a speech, he says the following lines..

“Even though we are too insignificant to be spokesmen for such a noble cause, we believe, and this journey has only confirmed this belief, that the division of American into unstable and illusory nations is a complete fiction. We are one single mestizo race from Mexico to the Magellan Straits. And so, in an attempt to free ourselves from narrow minded provincialism, I propose a toast to Peru and to a united America”

Perhaps something which he believed in completely and something which will change him and those around him. Inspite of being an Asthma patient, he dares to swim across the Amazon to spend the rest of the night with the lepers. Such is his grit! Finally they reach Venezuela, where Alberto decides to stay back and Che goes back home as a completely different person.

Shot with a terrific mix of Documentary style as well as maintaining a normal movie like feel this is a great biographical movie. It’s such a huge task to depict such an icon with complete honesty and perhaps only those who have known and completely understood his passion could have done that. I don’t claim that Walter Salles has done the picture perfect job, but then you cannot rule out the true theme about this depiction of Che. It’s not really about his philosophy but the events which made him think so. That’s perhaps why this is politically correct and something which everyone should keep in mind while watching this film. The backdrop of the rural South America is beautiful…it makes me so wanna go there, especially Peru!

The two actors, Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna, are good. Bernal as a passionate young man who identifies himself with the locals and Rodrigo as Alberto who initially criticises Che for being so straight forward but eventually understanding what’s going on in his mind; their conversations truly bring out the sense of friendship that they have. Also, the background music of the film….it’s so soothing as well as something which will inspire you every single time when you listen to it.

Watch it…watch it…watch it…this is a brilliant movie and a must for everyone who own a poster of Che and for all those who wanted to know how can a journey change your life!
The film stands by its tagline which resonates even after you complete the flick and think about it days later….”Let the World Change You and You can Change the World”.

By the way, if you are still wondering about that poster you have in your room, it was clicked by Alberto Korda….Click here for more info on what’s been named as the “Most Famous picture of the 20th Century” by the The Maryland Institute College of Art

For more reviews….Click here

Check out this trailer of the movie….

This is the OST of the movie titled “On the Other Side of the River” sung by Jorge Drexler, this song got the Oscar for Best Song in 2005….

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