Latin-American Studies

Motorcycle Diaries

Walter Salles’ film The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) explores the connection between the long journey taken across South America by Che  Guevara when he was twenty-three years old and his later role as a political revolutionary. On his journey, which is taken mostly o0n a motorcycle, Che and his companion, Alberto, observe many things that cause them to reconsider the way that they view social and political conditions in Latin America.  The movie portrays the changes that happened to Che as the result of the poverty and deprivation that he witnessed on his trek across many regions. The viewer is initiated into the same kind of anger and political angst that functioned as the true starting point of Che’s career as a reformer and a radical. Because of this, the movie functions not only as a biographical portrait, but as a political argument. The thesis or main argument presented by the film is that revolution against tyranny is a noble goal.

Obviously, Salles presents Che in an heroic light. This is especially due to the fact that the director wanted to capture the character of Che before he had emerged into his mature, political vision. this is a brilliant strategy for the film because it allows any viewer, even one who knows nothing of Che or Latin America, to understand the seeds of the revolutions that Che led later in his life. The film also tries to appeal to the viewers emotions and intellect simultaneously. It does this by showing, first hand, the  injustice that is perpetrated by those in power against the Latin American peasants, but it also does so by assuming that the viewer is intelligent enough to follow the way these injustices are internalized by the main characters of the story. One other interesting aspect of the film’s argument is that, because the events in the film are those which are later resolved in Che’s successful waging of reform and revolt, the viewer feels, instinctively that revolution carries with it a healing capacity that was awakened in Che through his empathy for the people who encountered on his journey.