Cubans Meet Soderbergh’s “Che”

By IRINA ECHARRY

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Waiting to see Soderbergh’s “Che” (photo by Caridad)

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 7.- On any Saturday afternoon, 23rd St. in Havana’s Vedado district is a popular place to hang out, but yesterday the numbers multiplied. The reason, Steven Soderbergh’s “Che” movie was to be shown at 6:00 p.m.

The first person in what became a huge line was Rita, an Italian who loves Cuba, “its people and its history.” “I am here because Che is a myth, a very interesting figure. You have to know this man to understand the history of the independence struggles of oppressed peoples.”

Next to her was Gladis, an elderly woman who said with pride: “I took part in a volunteer work day at the dairy industry with him. We didn’t speak, but there he was, as one more of us workers. Che always loved Cuba and that’s why Cuba should love him.”

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Gladis (center): “Che always loved Cuba” (photo by Caridad)

As Gladis spoke a memory came to mind from when I was a student; the attraction exerted by Che , his life and the legend that surrounded him. Later I grew up and I understood that legends are made. In any case, seeing all those people waiting to enter the movie theater was moving. A group of smiling young people said there’s a lot of expectation about the film and they don’t want to miss it.

Carmen told me she came because “I grew up listening to stories about Che, he’s a symbol, and I think it’s a challenge to make a film about his life and struggles. Besides, the actor looks a lot like him. I read about Benicio del Toro and his friends say that he smokes now with the same gestures as Che did. I want to see him.” I mentioned that he’s an actor and lives from acting and Carmen replied: “Of course, but I want to see if he plays him well.”

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Carmen: “I grew up listening to stories about Che” (photo by Caridad)

Her statement made me realize that many of the people that came to see the film want to find the real Che. I personally believe they want to see the Che that they know, the one we were taught about. However, the real Che was not even known by his children. This man lived intensely and left pieces of life wherever he went.

Favio, an elegant senior citizen in a suit, began by telling me that he had the honor of welcoming Che on a visit to a construction project he was working at in Villa Clara, but his words got cut short with the rejoicing that it was time to enter the Yara Movie Theater.

People waited in an organized line, some very excited. Once inside the theater some wanted to see the actor that played Raul Castro, since he’s the lead in a current Brazilian soap opera being shown on Cuban TV.

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Benicio del Toro presents the actors (photo by Caridad)

Cameras, people, smiles. A race to get seats. Benicio del Toro presents the rest of the actors. Darkness.

Nearly five hours went by including a brief intermission between the two parts, The Argentine and The Guerrilla. Applause, smiles, exclamations. The audience stayed until the end.

Adela said, “It’s a shame that the actor that played Fidel wasn’t as tall as him or have his long hands. No matter how well they acted, nobody can do justice to those figures; Fidel and Che are very big people, nobody can.”

Maizel, a teenager, said she identified more with the first part: “It’s our struggle, they are our leaders, I even cried.” However, Jorge Luis said for him, “The best part was the second, because of its faithfulness with Che’s diary. You can see that they studied it well, it’s very moving when they have them surrounded.”

I also found the second part more moving; to me, that is the film about Che. It has more feeling than the first; they put more heart into it.

Young people and not so young continued commenting on the film outside the theater and spilling out on to 23rd Street, which had the air of a night frozen in an old photograph.

Due to popular demand “Che” gets another special showing on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. at the 5,000 seat Karl Marx Theater in the Miramar district of Havana.



2 thoughts on “Cubans Meet Soderbergh’s “Che”

  • I haven”t watched the movie, but I heard about the Cuban “gusanera” outside the theater in Miami Beach where it was played ,screeming offensive words against the movie, the actors ( and against everything that they consider “their ” enemies). They say it’s offensive to Miami, because they still consider they themselves are Miami. Nothing but a few old people who feel scared whenever their “beliefs” are threatened by new or authentic ideas, even when those ideas come in the form of a work of art like a movie.
    That’s why I was eager to hear about the public reaction in Havana. For me this is the best example of extremely oposite ideas. And how the feelings of HATE and LOVE manifest towards the SAME object.
    Thanks Havana Times

    Reply
  • As a person whom had seen “Motocycle Diaries” read “Diario del Che” in Spanish, read “Cubans in Africa” the ” The Cia files”, “Conflicting Missions (Havana, Washington and Africa 1959-1976)”, The Cuban Reader “Reminicences of the Cuban Revolutionary War” by Che Guevara, and other books and article about wars and conflicts from both side (Cuba-U.S). I thought that there were nothing more to say and add but, I was wrong, and I am thankful for it, because it confirmed that no matter how much we read, there is always something more that went without saying in the past, and ask for more to study and understand. To me, the experience in Bolivia was the one who added something more to my knowledge: The lack of cooperation, the divisions of ideas, and the character of the political players, it is now something more to consider. The film left out alot of other important issues of course: Argelia, Africa, Executions, etc. that would give a more rounded view to it , as well as to film the part 1 in black & white to give it a documentary sort of feeling to it but, perhaps the human blader was considered in the making ( 4 hours long), and this others minors details were overlooked. Nevertheless the film was well acepted in the New York Premier, even though it ofended many as well.

    Reply

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