Soderbergh Gets Castro's Blessing for CheSteven Soderbergh's four-hour, two part epic Che will screen at next month's New Latin American Film Festival in Havana, reports the New York Post. Since the festival's president had said that any anti-Castro sentiment in the film would be grounds for exclusion back in July, we can assume the finished film skirts the controversial questions and lionizes Guevara throughout its elongated running time. "Cinematically we're making a demand on the audience that's very similar to the demands Che made on the people around him," says Soderbergh, which begs the question: did Fidel just fall asleep halfway through the screening?Guevara's image adorns countless tee-shirts of people who have no idea who he is, and elite fascination with the guy has a long history, including a loving Oliver Stone documentary and more recently, The Motorcycle Diaries. More than a person, the CIA-killed Guevara is a martyred symbol for resentment of imperial America. The film will be shown both as one complete feature, and also in two parts as Guerrilla and The Argentine, with Benicio Del Toro in the titular role, and Mexican actor Demián Bichir as Fidel Castro. Fear that the film will be a fantasy of the real Che Guevara has the conservative journal Commentary hopping mad to point out the more murderous aspects of Guevara's life, as depicted in Carlos Eire's Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy:
[Che] thinks about that cruel ritual he has witnessed so many times, when the guards strip all the prisoners naked and parade the most handsome in front of the newly arrived inmates to find out who among them is gay. He thinks about how anyone who gets aroused is taken away for a special mandatory “rehabilitation” program that includes the application of electrical currents to the genitals.
Soderbergh Gets Castro's Blessing for CheGuevera's sadistic love of violence could play both ways on screen — horrifying for those outside of Cuba, but a glamorous representation of the country's glory days for true believers. With that said, the violence isn't the easiest line to straddle, and Soderbergh initially may have hoped to avoid controversy by setting the film mostly during Che's time in Bolivia. The final cut instead flashes back and forth between different periods of Che's life. Early reviews of the film have suggested that precisely because the film doesn't focus on characterizing Che or taking a stand on his more disgusting methods, that it will be palatable to Cuba's regime. The better question may be whether audiences will sit through four hours just to find out how Soderbergh characterizes Guevara when the film comes out on January 9th. In the meantime, you may occupy yourself with Soderbergh talking about Che at last month's New York Film Festival: