The Catalyst for Revolution: The Motorcycle Diaries

         The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), by Water Salles, shows the catalytic inspiration for the iconic revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Basd upon the journal written by Che throughout his trip through South America, the film is a beautiful look at struggling working class, the bourgeoisie, the tormented people, and the spirit behind the violent and bloody revolution years later. Despite this being Salles' second film, he was a producer on the Brazilian picture City of God, a critically renowned true story of the brutal life of a young photographer. Salles also is said to be directing the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, another story of defining travel, this time across America in the 1950s.

        The story of Che begins in Argentina when Che and his friend Alberto Granado decide to leave medical school on a journey across South America and up north through Central America. The two are young, optimistic, uninhibitedly joyful, and ready to explore their land. Along the way they begin to witness the horrible conditions that many people across the continent are living in. At the beginning of the film the two are playful, once being chased out of town after almost unknowingly seducing a local married woman, After their bike breaks down, however, the two run into a mining colony where workers and their families are barley able to survive; Che's attitude begins to change, his patience warring thin, yet his love for the people radiating.

        At the end of the film, Che swims across the Amazon to reach the lepers who have been secluded on the other side of the river--a risky decision considering the river is wider than two miles. He is cheered on and warmly accepted by the patient patients on the riverbed. On his birthday, Che makes a speech to those working at the colony, which is said to be his first public political statement. He calls for a unified America, where the workers are appreciated and protected from oppression by cold leaders. This is the defining moment in the life of one of the most revered men in Latin culture, a man, though responsible later for hundreds of executions, loved by the people he fought for. He later would be caught by the CIA and become a martyr, killed by the hands of Bolivian soldiers.

        The beauty of the shots captured is astounding, as is the cinematography. It is obvious to see why Frances Ford Coppola chose Salles to direct On the Road. As the two friends travel through the mountains, wilderness surrounds the journey. While they roam, the realism is evident in the film. The pictures and words of Che's book are infused with meaning, creating a movie that will last forever, representing the molding of such youths into their memorable adulthoods from their own passion.

Taylor Sutton

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