El da Que Me Quieras. First Run/Icarus Films.
Reviewed by Margaret Power
Published on H-LatAm (August, 2001)
An Argentine friend of mine recently commented to me that Che is in fashion again in her country. The last time she was in Buenos Aires young people proudly sported T-shirts with Che's picture, with his penetrating gaze and black beret perched on top of his long hair. <i>El Da Que Me Quieras</i> explores a different, but equally dramatic, image of the Latin American revolutionary: the last picture taken of Che. This black and white photograph shows Che lying on a concrete slab, his shirt stripped off, his eyes open, surrounded by members of the Bolivian military who captured him, and by photographers flown in to record Ches defeat and the military's victory. <p> Leandro Katz, the director, explains why he decided to make the film. "A few years ago I got a print of this photograph and I began to fragment it, attempting to understand its power." The film explores why this picture moved, and continues to move, so many people. In the process of examining how this photograph both reflects and enhances the image of Che in the years following his murder, Katz's film reinforces and perpetuates the idea of Che as the consummate Latin-American revolutionary hero and martyr. <p> Much of the <i>El Da Que Me Quieras</i> consists of Katz's interview with photographer Freddy Alborta, an examination of the photo of Che from various perspectives, and scenes of Bolivian peasants today. Readings from Jorge Luis Borges and by Pablo Neruda are interspersed throughout the film. The film begins by recounting some of the basic facts of Che's mission to and death in Bolivia. Katz establishes why Che went to Bolivia, and refutes any rumors that a rift had developed between Fidel Castro and Che, by playing a recording of Castro's reading of Che's farewell letter, dated October 3, 1965. On October 6, 1967, members of the Bolivian military surrounded Che and the guerrillas he was working with, wounded him, and subsequently murdered him after they had captured him. They placed his body in the laundry room of a hospital in Vallegrande, a small village in Bolivia, and flew in photographers to witness the event. Freddy Alborta was one of these photographers, and it is his photograph that is the subject of this film. <p> Alborta discusses his approach to photography, the atmosphere in the laundry when he took Che's picture, and the impression he received upon viewing and photographing the cadaver of Che. When he first saw Che, Alborta thought he was alive. Although the military chose Alborta to take pictures of the dead Che, it is clear that Alborta does not share the military's hatred of Che. Not only does he come across as a compassionate man (he was distressed that the military men had thrown the bodies of two other guerrillas on the floor), he also clearly feels a degree of reverence for Che. Reflecting an image of Che that is repeated throughout the film, Alborta remarks that when he photographed Che, "I thought I was taking a picture of Christ." <p> The film is both an examination of Che's last picture, and a moving tribute to Che. Like Christ, the film suggests, the corporal Che is dead, but his spirit continues to live. At various points, indigenous Bolivians appear, carrying red banners or a flag. At first, we see only one man, riding a horse, waving a huge red flag, the symbol of revolutionary struggle. In his subsequent appearance, a fellow peasant joins him and accompanies him up a steep hill. In one of the final scenes of the film, a large group of peasants advances across a field, holding a massive red banner, led by the man on horseback carrying the red flag. In the next and final segment, a picture of a young, vibrant, and smiling Che is shown, along with Castro reading the end of Che's farewell letter and the famous parting words Hasta la Victoria Siempre, accompanied by Carlos Gardel's song "El da que me quieras." The idea is clear, powerful, and haunting: Che's legacy thrives and the sacrifice of his life was not in vain. It is in this sense that the film sustains and embellishes the myth of Che. <p> Yet, even as these scenes moved me, I could not help but being somewhat frustrated by their vagueness. Who were these peasants and what exactly were they doing? Did they represent an indigenous peasant movement or were they extras hired for the film? Perhaps I am too pragmatic, but in order to argue that the spirit of Che survives, I would like to know what the concrete demands of those he inspires are. <p> In exploring the context in which Alborta took his famous picture of Che, the film brings to life the scene surrounding Che's death. This is a key contribution that the film makes and one that students of modern Latin American politics and revolutionary movements in particular will particularly appreciate. El da que me quieras also explores how a photograph is produced and acquires meaning. As historians, many of us use photographs to understand aspects of the past that text is unable to transmit. This movie helped me to be more conscious of the need to consider the context in which the photograph was taken, the attitude and intent of the photographer who took it, the various meanings that have been attributed to the photograph, and how these perceptions affect my own. For that reason, this film could be useful in a class on historical methodology. <p> The film does not, however, stand alone. In order to appreciate fully this movie, students would need to have a deeper understanding of the historical period it refers to only cursorily, the strategy of guerrilla warfare, counterinsurgency warfare, and more background on Che. In addition, it would be helpful to explain who Carlos Gardel, Jorge Luis Borges, and Pablo Neruda are so the viewer could better understand the connection between these men's intellectual and artistic connections and Che Guevara.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the list discussion logs at: http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl.
Margaret Power. Review of , El da Que Me Quieras.
H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2001 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.