Run time: 86 mins
In Theaters: Tuesday 1st April 2008
Distributed by: Red Envelope Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 5.9 / 10
Director: Trisha Ziff, Luis Lopez
Producer: Trisha Ziff
Screenwriter: Sylvia Stevens, Trisha Ziff
The truth is that most people have no idea who Guevara really was, but they know he's cool. This is mainly due to an image snapped almost accidentally in 1960, which was later turned into a logo for people power. The filmmakers trace both the life and death of Guevara and the production and spread of Alberto Korda's photograph with amazing detail, illustrating every point with superb archive footage, photos and interviews with experts, celebrities, politicians and first-hand witnesses.
Of course, timing is everything, and this photo emerged shortly after Guevara's death in 1967 as a rallying image for student protesters in Paris, Prague and everyone else in the turbulent summer of 1968. Graphic designers multiplied it into thousands of variations, echoing the pop art movement in a cumulative protest against commercialism and corruption. Of course, this meant that Guevara's picture became a capitalist tool of its own, making money for everyone but the photographer.
And the film goes further to examine the idea of a doctor-turned-warrior's photo becoming a symbol of peace and a photo taken at a specific time being stripped of its context (it was taken during a memorial service after a terrorist tragedy, which explains the pained expression). Not to mention the irony that Guevara hated to be photographed. But of course, there's more going on here; this photo carries with it the empowering ideal of fighting for the poor.
Even though it gets a little earnest, this well-assembled film is entertaining, lively and packed with scenes and details we've never heard before. The filmmakers turn a study of a photo into a provocative look at capitalism (now Korda's family makes money licensing the image). But as Rage Against The Machine's Morello notes, the image embodies the fact that we must create a world that's better than the one we inherited. And yes, in Guevara's face there's defiance mixed with action, compassion and hope. But only if we bother to look.