'Che' Director: English the Language of 'Imperialists'

The director of the movie "Che" which will be released later this month is disingenuously claiming that he has no political axe to grind. In a CNN interview, director Steven Soderbergh absurdly stated that he only wanted to present the "facts" about Che Guevara's life:

Steven Soderbergh made certain his new movie, "Che," about the life of revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, couldn't be attacked -- at least on a factual level.

"I didn't mind someone saying, 'Well, your take on him, I don't really like,' or 'You've left these things out and included these things.' That's fine," Soderbergh said. "What I didn't want was for somebody to be able to look at a scene and say, 'That never happened.' "

But he's aware that he's going to be accused of romanticizing the Argentine doctor and Marxist guerrilla who helped Cuba's Fidel Castro launch the first and only victorious socialist revolution in the Americas. He doesn't buy the criticism.

"I don't have sort of a personal investment in making him look one way or another," Soderbergh said in one interview with CNN. "I picked [these periods in his life] because I was interested in the specifics of how you wage a war like this -- mostly because I don't believe you can wage a war like this anymore."

Despite his announced intention to stick to the facts you can easily tell where Soderbergh is coming from with his rationale for filming the movie in Spanish:

Soderbergh, who said he was first approached by Del Toro to do the project while making "Traffic" in 2000, is just as happy with his language choice for the Spanish-language film. He feels "Che" would not have earned respect as an English-speaking movie.

"It seemed weird to make a movie about one of the most vocal anti-imperialists of the 20th century and use the language of the imperialists," he said. "That just didn't make any sense to me."

I have no problem with films being made in other languages. That should be an artistic decision but the reason given by Soderbergh that English is the "language of the imperialists" pretty much tells you where he is coming from. And we can tell where CNN is coming from by the use of a certain phrase in describing Batista:

The New Year marks the 50th anniversary of Guevara and Castro's overthrow of the U.S.-supported dictator Batista. 

There really should be an embargo on the use of the term "U.S.-supported dictator Batista" primarily because it's not true. Here is what the Babalu Blog presented about the supposed U.S. support for Batista:

Former U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, Earl T. Smith, during Congressional testimony in 1960, declared flatly: "We put Castro in power." He referred to the U.S. State Department and CIA's role in aiding, both morally and materially, the Castro rebels, to their pulling the rug out from under Batista with an arms embargo, to hiding Castro rebels in the U.S. embassy, and finally to the U.S. order that Batista vacate Cuba. Ambassador Smith knew something about these events because he personally delivered the messages to Batista, who was then denied exile in the U.S.

As to the movie "Che" itself, the comments of Slate writer Paul Berman about another movie also glorifying Guevara, "The Motorcycle Diaries,"  apply to this film as well:

The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster. Many of the early leaders of the Cuban Revolution favored a democratic or democratic-socialist direction for the new Cuba. But Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won. Che presided over the Cuban Revolution's first firing squads. He founded Cuba's "labor camp" system—the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims. To get himself killed, and to get a lot of other people killed, was central to Che's imagination. In the famous essay in which he issued his ringing call for "two, three, many Vietnams," he also spoke about martyrdom and managed to compose a number of chilling phrases: "Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become …"— and so on. He was killed in Bolivia in 1967, leading a guerrilla movement that had failed to enlist a single Bolivian peasant. And yet he succeeded in inspiring tens of thousands of middle class Latin-Americans to exit the universities and organize guerrilla insurgencies of their own. And these insurgencies likewise accomplished nothing, except to bring about the death of hundreds of thousands, and to set back the cause of Latin-American democracy—a tragedy on the hugest scale.

Finally a note to CNN: Is it really going to kill you to accurately describe what happened in Cuba 50 years ago as a communist revolution? Most of the Cuba people were kept in the dark about the true intentions of Fidel and Che but communist revolution was their ultimate goal which they achieved.

P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick is a freelance writer and creator of the DUmmie FUnnies blog.