Two friends joined me recently to catch Steven Soderbergh's film about Ernesto "Che" Guevara at the Nuart. It'll be in wide distribution later but this was one of the last showings of the four and a half hour film in its entirety. Under the neon marquee during intermission - with Santa Monica Boulevard still busy but not as much as when we'd entered the theater - a few people shared their thoughts. Sandro Salinas a 36 year-old from Mexico called the film a documental, a documentary. It's not. While based on Che's writings, the film's program disclaims, "...certain characters and incidents have been composited." Sandro's read several books about Guevara. The film, he said, filled in a lot of details, such as Che's chit chat at cocktail parties in New York City and the bomb threat there as Che addressed the United Nations.
Sandro points to a quarter-sized red star on his black cloth cap after I ask him why he came to see the film, "Because I'm a revolutionary, so to speak." He derided the proliferation of Che's image, "Mira, si estuviera ahorita vivo, se estaría cagando el güey. Se estaría cagando de coraje porque es algo contra lo que el peleaba. Ahora sí que el Americano le sacó jugo a el, con su muerte de el, le sacaron jugo." That's not what Che was about, Sandro said, he'd be really pissed off that America was profiting from his image after his death.
Friends Sophie Kahn of Woodland Hills and Farah Nabade of Los Angeles were eager to see the film in one sitting. In wide distribution it'll be shown as two films. At intermission Sophie said the film's message was obvious, "The power of the people. If you're united you can do anything you want to." Farah added, "What is wrong with his ideas?" Maybe his techniques of guerrilla war are not practical today, she said, but his ideas about improving people's standard of living and redistributing wealth are still important.
David Gomez, a 39 year-old professional DJ from East L.A. agreed with them. The United States still acts as an imperialist nation, he said. All three like seeing the mass reproduction of Che Guevara's face. It's good for the young people, Farah said, but only if people read up on the man's ideas, Gomez added.