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Che: Part 1

~Cannes Film Festival Best Actor 2008~

The name still resonates forty years after his death. Perhaps more than any other individual, Che Guevara personifies an era: the sixties, a time when revolution was in the air. His hold over the collective imagination is arguably as powerful as it was when he was alive. He is now a global brand, his image ubiquitous. Young, handsome and idealistic, he was a hero to the oppressed – and he remains an icon, a projection of the hopes, dreams and fantasies of many, both rich and poor. Steven Soderbergh, screenwriter Peter Buchman, actor Benicio del Toro and Che biographer Jon Lee Anderson have set themselves the daunting task of telling his story. The result is fascinating, recreating Che’s life not in epic terms, but as a long, hard slog, consisting of countless small victories and defeats. Whether struggling to overthrow a corrupt regime or attempting to export the revolution, the scale is always intimate. The final effect is complex, as we are shown a powerful and decisive figure who is also human, flawed and at times painfully frail. The film is divided into two parts, mirroring two phases of Che’s life: Part 1 covers the years from 1955 to 1962, Part 2 from 1966 until Che’s death in 1967. (A third installment was also envisioned; if made, it will deal with the intervening years.) In so doing, Soderbergh uses a structure similar to that of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. Power on the ascendant is followed by power descendant, neatly divided. The first half of this immense and fascinating film deals with the struggle against Batista, portraying in considerable detail the gruelling battle that Fidel and Che fought in the Cuban countryside before successfully entering Havana. The second half is set entirely in Bolivia, leapfrogging his period of power in Cuba and his African adventure in the Congo. Che faces similar challenges, galvanizing poor peasants into a military force that can take on trained professionals. This is guerilla warfare, and Soderbergh does a superb job capturing its scale and gritty reality. Benicio Del Toro disappears into his role – the likeness is eerie, and his performance towering. Inevitably, Che will provoke endless discussion about this most fascinating and elusive of men. – Piers Handling, Toronto International Film Festival Trailer
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Directed by: 
Steven Soderbergh
Running Time: 
France, Spain, USA
Spanish with English Subtitles
Benicio Del Toro, Rodrigo Santoro, Demián Bichir, Julia Ormond
Screenplay by: 
Peter Buchman, Jon Lee Anderson, based on the memoirs of Ernesto “Che” Guevara

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