The Motorcycle Diaries, recently released on DVD, is a film garnering all sorts of attention and award nominations.
The movie has already won a Golden Globe and is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.
The movie follows Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Che, or El Fumer as he’s nicknamed), played by Gael Garcia Bernal, and Alberto Granado, a friend six years Guevara’s senior, played by Rodrigo Da la Serna.
Alberto owns the motorcycle on which the two embark on their journey across South America.
Guevara, at the time, was a medical student one year away from graduation. Granado, as a biologist, had a doctorate.
As for the first third of the movie, think Easy Riders, 15 years in the past, one less motorcycle and in Spanish.
Che and Alberto begin their journey, and not two minutes later almost crash head-on into a bus.
The two travel along, crashing into a drainage ditch, a cow and other roadside obstacles, making you wonder if they will even make it through their journey.
Along the way, the two seem to follow the standard biker lifestyle: travel, drink, eat, party and fix the bike, until the bike needs a real mechanic.
The two use a story about being doctors on a South American journey to help people that have diseases. The made-up story continually brings aid and assistance to the men.
The story is used on the mechanic who repairs the bike, and all seems well until at a dance, Che tries to get with the mechanic’s wife.
Next thing you witness is Che and Alberto being chased by a score of the mechanic’s homeboys until the two get to the shop, grab the motorcycle and speed off into the night.
Just when it seems like this is a biker movie, the two commit the ultimate sin and abandon the bike after more mechanical problems, continuing their journey by foot, thumbing along the way.
This is where it becomes clear this movie isn’t another biker film.
While the journey begins on a motorcycle, it doesn’t last long that way and in fact, the journey is more about Guevara’s witnessing the stark conditions and oppression of the people in South America, and his inner resolve to do something about it, than about a motorcycle.
They have their revelation at a leper colony where the doctors and nuns that help the sick are separated by a river.
Che sees that the people with the leprosy are actually the people he can relate to and he wants to help them.
He sees the river as a divider between the classes and believes that he has to cross the river on his birthday to be with the people he relates to the most.
Anyone familiar with Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara is aware he was a guerrilla leader, who eventually helped Fidel Castro gain control of Cuba.
As stated previously, the movie is a foreign film and is in Spanish, with English subtitles.
It is not about motorcycles as much as it is about the events that shape an individual’s life and goals.
Being subtitled, the movie requires careful attention to stay with the story, and as a result, if you are interested in Guevara’s history, the movie is a hit and worth the effort.
If you are looking for entertainment and a story about motorcycle journeys, you’ll be disappointed. The film runs much deeper than just a simple road movie on a motorcycle.
The film is pretty good, but the title misleads you to expect something a little different, and the underlying preaching reminds me of a Steven Segal movie.