Benicio del Toro as “Che” Captivates Havana

Benicio del Toro in Havana (photo by Caridad)

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 8.- Hundreds of films from around the world are being shown at the 30th Havana Film Festival, but the one that took Cuba’s capital by storm was “Che”, a four-hour two-part film by US director Steven Soderbergh staring Benicio del Toro as the revolutionary icon.

An estimated 4,000 Cubans saw “Che” in its first two showings as a non-competing part of the Festival that brings out masses of Cuban movie buffs and draws visitors from around the world.

Speaking at a press conference Sunday in Havana flanked by the film cast, Benicio del Toro spoke in favor of rapprochement between the US and Cuba saying, “I hope this film will help somewhat in their understanding each other better.”

Del Toro expressed his hope that relations could improve when Barack Obama takes office. He noted that some things have changed today with an indigenous president of Bolivia and an African-American about to enter the White House.

Vladamir Cruz (Cuba) far left, Rodrigo Santoro (Brasil) with Benicio del Toro at Havana press conference (photo by Caridad)

The Puerto Rican actor said that playing the role of Ernesto “Che” Guevara gave him new incite and appreciation into the struggles of the historic figure.  .

Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro, who played Cuba’s current President Raul Castro in the film, said he studied with historians for two months to take on his role and visited the Sierra Maestra Mountains in eastern Cuba to familiarize himself with the terrain of the guerrilla struggle against the Batista dictatorship. “It was a tremendous responsibility and I’m very proud of it,” said Santoro, well known in Cuba for his roles in popular Brazilian soap operas.

Benicio del Toro and cast at Havana press conference (photo by Caridad)

Del Toro added, “The dream was to finish the film and show it to the Cuban audience.” He said he very moved by the positive response. “We reached the finish line.”

Producer Alvaro Longoria announced at the press conference that the film will premiere in January in the US and that 20 copies were donated to Cuba for further exhibition.

The Havana Film Festival continues through Sunday, December 14.

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