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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The True Story of Che Guevara
The True Story of Che Guevara
A&E Video // Unrated // April 24, 2007
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Phil Bacharach | posted May 31, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The True Story of Che Guevara is standard History Channel fare. That's not meant as a putdown; this slickly produced biographical documentary is an informative, compact overview of the Argentine-born revolutionary. And there is fodder here for both his admirers and opponents, perhaps fitting for a man who has taken on iconic status in the 40 years since his execution in Bolivia.

Incorporating newsreel footage, still photographs and some respectably restrained dramatizations, the 91-minute piece is comprehensive. Born in 1928 in Argentina, Ernesto "Che" Guevara was a charismatic medical student with a knack for womanizing and a curious lack of interest in hygiene. In 1952, he and friend Alberto Granado toured Latin America on an aging motorbike (a period chronicled in Guevara's book, The Motorcycle Diaries), where this product of an upper-middle-class family saw a world of impoverishment. Several years later, Guevara was working as a doctor in Guatemala when the popular socialist government was toppled by a CIA-backed coup. The overthrow fomented Guevara's hatred of the United States and led to his fervent embrace of Marxist doctrine.

The bulk of the documentary rightly focuses on Guevara's life as a key figure in Fidel Castro's takeover of Cuba. Viewers with only a rudimentary knowledge of the Cuban Revolution will be fascinated by this chronicling of Castro's ragtag rebels. Guevara was pivotal, renowned for being a fierce fighter and equally fierce ideologue. "His willingness to confront death," says Guevara biographer Jon Lee Anderson, "to take life, to risk his own life, came together to form a charisma that was highly unusual and which gave him an almost legendary reputation." In the years following the revolution, however, Guevara's increasingly strident rhetoric managed to alienate Cuba's chief benefactor, the Soviet Union.

At Castro's urging, Guevara left Cuba in search of new revolutions. A would-be adventure in the Congo fizzled. He then traveled to Bolivia, where Guevara failed to start a rebellion and concomitantly hastened his own downfall. While The True Story of Che Guevara stops short of painting Guevara as a bloodthirsty monster, it doesn't gloss over the numerous executions he supervised or his zealous efforts to spark a world war that he believed would result in a global socialist utopia.

The documentary boasts an impressive array of interviewees that ranges from Guevara biographer Anderson to Che's former soldiers, friends, and even Félix Rodríguez, the CIA agent who supervised Guevara's execution. The True Story of Che Guevara is compelling and moves at a fast clip, but viewers seeking a deeper understanding of the man might be better served by looking elsewhere.

The DVD

The Video:

The widescreen presentation boasts a clean, serviceable -- if flat -- picture quality. There are no noticeable defects.

The Audio:

The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix does a solid job pumping up the dramatic quotient, particularly when it comes to gun-blasting reenactments. The audio is clear and crisp, with no drop-off or distortion.

Extras:

Slim pickins -- just a timeline of Che Guevara's life and a bibliography of Che Guevara's published works in English.

Final Thoughts:

Che Guevara's angry, resolute mug is plastered on everything from posters to t-shirts, but for many he is little more than a symbol. The True Story of Che Guevara does a good job of fleshing out the life behind the myth.

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