PARIS – Hollywood history is often nonsensical, but filmmakers usually have the good sense not to whitewash killers and sadists. Steven Soderbergh’s new film about Che Guevara, however, does that, and more.
Che the revolutionary romantic, as depicted by Benecio del Toro in Soderbergh’s film, never existed. That hero of the left, with his hippie hair and beard, an image now iconic on t-shirts and coffee mugs around the world, is a myth concocted by Fidel Castro’s propagandists – something of a cross between Don Quixote and Robin Hood.
Like those tall tales, Fidel’s myth of Che bears a superficial resemblance to historical facts, but the real story is far darker. Some Robin Hood probably did brutalize the rich and, to cover his tracks, gave some of his loot to the poor. In medieval Spain, Quixote-like knights probably did roam the countryside, ridding it not of dragons but of the land’s few remaining Muslims.
The same goes for the legendary Che. No teenager in rebellion against the world or his parents seems able to resist Che’s alluring image. Just wearing a Che t-shirt is the shortest and cheapest way to appear to be on the right side of History.