‘Motorcycle Diaries’ Story of Young Che Guevara

Movie Poster for ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’

Review by Kelly Dolejsi

Why do some of us only think or want, while others do and make? How do the seeds of true revolution first begin?

Walter Salles’s “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004, rated R), screening at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Public Library, examines a young Che Guevara’s journey across South America, where the aspiring doctor witnesses continent-wide poverty, disparity and injustice, the magnitude of which might have been enough to inspire his future.

Toward the end of 1951, Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) set off from Buenos Aires to explore the continent. Because Guevara is a medical student and Granado, a biochemist, the two are going in part to volunteer at a leper colony in San Pablo, Peru. But of course, a 5,000-mile motorcycle trip is never just about a job.

After the motorcycle, dubbed “The Mighty One,” suffers its last mile, well before the men reach their ostensible destination, Guevara and Granado continue on foot, hitching rides with Incas, cows, miners and Communists.

One can see Guevara hardening against the status quo conversation by conversation. The “rules” — as decreed by the government, culture or even the nuns running the colony in San Pablo — hurt people.

Guevara is not yet a political rebel, but he is serious, introspective, honest and deeply moved by people’s plights, whether they are patients, friends or strangers.

The story offers many clues to Guevara’s future actions as a leader (and eventual martyr) in the Communist Party. But even those who know nothing at all about Guevara might still find inspiration in the young men’s travels across such a diverse, thrilling, perpetually surprising landscape.

Most of us are not destined to command violent uprisings in attempts to bring justice to underserved populations. Yet, we could all use an adventure to shake us out of our small lives and prove that we, too, have a say in creating the world.

The Free Film Series presents a movie the first Thursday of the month, thanks to the Friends of Los Alamos County Libraries. Looking ahead, mark your calendars for “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?” Oct. 2, “Lonely Are the Brave” Nov. 6 and “Baghdad Café” Dec. 4.

For more information, call the library at 505.662.8240.