Based on the early diaries of Che Guevara and Alberto Granado’s book With Che Through Latin America, Jose Rivera’s spirited screenplay, brought to life by visionary filmmaker Walter Salles, chronicles the start of Che’s political awakening at age 23 as he sets off (just one semester shy of graduating as an MD) on a motorcycle adventure with friend Alberto Granado. Gael Garcia Bernal had large shoes to fill in playing the controversial but revered Latin American hero and he is wonderfully emotive, helping illustrate the passion and growing political awareness experienced by Che on the journey from Argentina, through Chile, Peru, and Venezuela until ultimately landing in a leper colony in the Amazon where he comes of age on the road after facing the misfortunate realities of others that were absent from his previously sheltered life. Produced by Robert Redford, this visually sweeping film is lively and fun—don’t be daunted by the history of the subject as I was completely ignorant about Che going into the film and actually found that it provided a good foundation in charting his beginnings in the 1950’s before the rise of his political activism in the 60’s. The Motorcycle Diaries will also strike a chord for those fans of Kerouac and Dylan and lovers of On The Road style adventures as well as individuals in their 20’s who may be experiencing some of the same existential issues of wanting to think globally in helping their fellow man while also coming to understand themselves and their place in the world. While ultimately, the last portion of the film does tend to drag and could’ve benefited from additional editing to match the pace set by the start of the film, it’s a journey well-worth taking and one so expertly executed by Salles, Rivera, Bernal, and Rodriguo de la Serna (excellent as Granado) that viewers nearly feel as though they too are on the back of the 1939 Norton 500 Motorcycle used in the film. In addition to several nominations and awards around the globe, Salles’s film also received an Oscar for Best Song (see below).
Academy Award Winning Song “Al Otro Lado del Río”