The Motorcycle Diaries, is the story of a road trip taken by Ernesto “Che’” Guavera (Gael Garcia Bernal of El Crimen de Padre Amaro) and his friend Alberto Granada (Rodrigo de la Serna) in 1952. Their plan was to ride a motorcycle from Buenos Aires, around the southern most tip of South America and north to Venezuela in four months – arriving in time to celebrate Alberto’s 30th birthday.
Che’ Guavera is known as one of the major leaders of the Cuban revolution who was eventually murdered by the CIA in Bolivia in 1967. This story, based on the writings of the two main characters, is an interprative, minimalist approach to biographical filmmaking. We get to see the beauty of the South American landscape and experience the extreme discomforts of the journey of the two men (from motorcycle travel, to the machine’s demise, to their walking and hitchhiking – and their running out of money), while witnessing Che’s growing awareness of the oppression of the poor and indigeneous peoples of South America and his eventual decision to participate in their liberation.
I think it is an excellent film that does not preach, but let’s us see what it means to listen and pay attention to the world around us, reflect and process this experience through journaling, enter into dialogue with one’s companions or others and then to act …. We may not agree that Che’ chose the “proper” approach to social change, but then things haven’t changed all that much in South America and other parts of the world, have they? I think that in a very subtle way this film lets us see how post World War II economic expansion and globalization began to take root to the destruction of native peoples lives and cultures. Pope John Paul II, in his statement to the Synod of the Americas in 1997, focused on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and considered both North and South America “one” continent with shared “social sins.” And this comes almost 50 years after Che’ and Alberto’s road trip.
With freedom, comes responsibility for the lives and well-being of our brothers and sisters wherever they are.