By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 5.- Benicio del Toro is heading for Havana, Cuba this weekend to be at the screening of the Steven Soderbergh film about Ernesto “Che” Guevarra, the role played by the Oscar-winning actor.
Che (1928-1967) is everywhere in Cuba: on billboards, in numerous documentaries, songs, on three-peso coins and T-shirts. Factories, work collectives, and museums bear his name. His ideas and feats, from his university days in Buenos Aires, his time as a Cuban government minister, to his death in Bolivia, are still front-page news at different times throughout the year in Cuban newspapers.
Che is revered by government leaders, much of the general citizenry, as well as by people who see in him ideals they think have been sidetracked over 50 years of the ups and downs of revolution.
My seven-year-old grandson calls Che his brother, and has wept over the fact he was killed. “Why did the good guy die so young,” he has asked me? Axel, like most Cuban grade school children, says he “wants to be like Che,” considered an icon of altruism, revolutionary commitment and perseverance, values instilled in the Cuban educational system.
A few years ago the full-length film Motorcycle Diaries -by Brazilian director Walter Salles about Che’s motorcycle trip through South America in the early 1950s- was well received by just about everyone on the island who saw it. It played nationwide at movie theaters and had several TV showings.
When the Havana Film Festival (Dec. 2-12) agreed to hold a special showing of Soderbergh’s production, the anti-Cuba foreign press speculated that it must have received former President Fidel Castro’s approval in order to be shown.
What the media didn’t mention is that the Cuban Film Institute (ICIAC) has screened many controversial films at its annual festivals that do not necessarily support aspects of the Cuban Revolution or the country’s system of government.
Del Toro won the best-actor prize for his role as Che at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where the movie premiered.
The four-hour film was made in two parts, “The Argentine” and “Guerilla,” and was shot in Spain and Bolivia, where Che was captured and executed under CIA orders in 1967.
Accompanying Del Toro on his trip to Havana is actor Rodrigo Santoro, who plays Cuba’s current president Raul Castro in the film. Reuters reported that whether Soderbergh would make an appearance in Havana was still unclear; noting the Bush administration’s travel ban could keep him away.
The two-part film on Che is scheduled to be shown on Saturday night at the Yara theater at 6:00 p.m. and 8:oo p.m. A second showing was also announced for Sunday at the 5,000 seat Karl Marx Theater for 4:00 p.m.
HAVANA FILM FESTIVAL PHOTO GALLERY