The Motorcycle Diaries (film)

The Motorcycle Diaries (film)

Infobox Film
name = The Motorcycle Diaries

image_size =
caption = Theatrical poster
director = Walter Salles
producer = Edgard Tenenbaum Michael Nozik Karen Tenkoff
writer = Screenplay: José Rivera Story: Che Guevara Alberto Granado
narrator =
starring = Gael García Bernal Rodrigo de la Serna
music = Gustavo Santaolalla
cinematography = Eric Gautier
editing = Daniel Rezende
distributor = Focus Features Production Company: BD Cine
released = January 15, 2004 (premiere at Sundance)
August 27 2004 (UK)
September 24 2004 (United States)
runtime = 126 minutes
country = Argentina
France Germany Peru United Kingdom United States
language = Spanish
budget =
website =
amg_id = 1:291108
imdb_id = 0318462

"The Motorcycle Diaries" (2004) is a biographical film about the journey and written memoir of the 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara, who would years later become internationally known as the iconic Marxist revolutionary "Che" Guevara. The film recounts the 1952 journey, initially by motorcycle, across South America by Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado. As the adventure centered around youthful hedonism unfolds, Guevara discovers himself transformed by his observations of the life of the impoverished indigenous peasantry. The road presents Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado a genuine picture of the Latin American identity. Through the characters they encounter on the road, Guevara and Granado learn the injustices the impoverished face and are exposed to people they would have never encountered in their hometown. The trip serves to expose a Latin American identity as well as explore the identity of one of its most memorable revolutionaries.

The screenplay is based primarily on Guevara's travelogue "The Motorcycle Diaries" by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, with additional context supplied by "Back on the Road: A Journey Through Latin America" by Alberto Granado. Guevara is played by Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, and Granado by the Argentine actor Rodrigo de la Serna, who is a second cousin to Che Guevara on his maternal side. [ [ Durbin, Karen] . "The New York Times," Arts Section, September 12 2004. Last accessed: March 23 2008.] Directed by Brazilian director Walter Salles and written by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera, the film was an international co-production between production companies from Argentina, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Chile, Peru and France. The film's executive producers were Robert Redford, Paul Webstera, and Rebecca Yeldham; the producers were Edgard Tenenbaum, Michael Nozik, and Karen Tenkoff; and the co-producers were Daniel Burman and Diego Dubcovsky.


In 1952, a semester before Ernesto "Fuser" Guevara is due to complete his medical degree, he and his older friend Alberto, a biochemist, leave Buenos Aires in order to travel across the South American continent in search of fun and adventures. While there is a goal at the end of their journey-- they intend to work in a leper colony in Peru-- the main purpose is tourism. They want to see as much of Latin America as they can, more than 8,000 miles in just a few months, and also bed as many Latin American women as will fall for their pick-up lines. Their initial method of transport is Alberto's ancient and leaky but functional Norton 500 motorcycle christened "La Poderosa" ("The Mighty One").

Their route is ambitious. They head south, aim to cross the Andes, travel along the coast of Chile, across the Atacama Desert and into the Peruvian Amazon and reach Venezuela just in time for Alberto's 30th birthday, April 2nd. Due to "La Poderosa"'s breakdown, they are forced to travel at a much slower pace, and make it to Caracas in July.

During their expedition, Guevara and Granado encounter the poverty of the indigenous peasants, and the movie assumes a greater seriousness once the men gain a better sense of the disparity between the "haves" and "have-nots" of Latin America. In Chile, the pleasure travelers encounter a couple forced onto the road because of their communist beliefs. In a fire-lit scene, Ernesto and Alberto admit to the couple that they are not out looking for work as well. The duo accompany the couple to the Chuquicamata copper mine, and Guevara becomes angry at the treatment of the workers. There is also an instance of recognition when Ernesto, on a river ship, looks down at the poor people on the smaller boat hitched behind. Ernesto's connection to people in need is visceral and tactile throughout the film. It shows in the way he smoothes the forehead of a terminally ill woman who cannot afford a proper doctor.

However, it is a visit to the Incan ruins of Macchu Picchu that inspires something in Ernesto. He wonders how the highly advanced culture gave way to the urban sprawl of Lima. His answer is that the Spanish had guns.

In Peru, they volunteer for three weeks at the San Pablo leper colony. There, Guevara sees both physically and metaphorically the division of society between the toiling masses and the ruling class (the staff live on the north side of a river, separated from the lepers living on the south). Guevara also refuses to wear rubber gloves during his visit choosing instead to shake bare hands with startled leper inmates.

At the end of the film, after his sojourn at the leper colony, Guevara confirms his nascent egalitarian, anti-authority impulses, while making a birthday toast, which is also his first political speech. In it he evokes a pan-Latin American identity that transcends the arbitrary boundaries of nation and race. These encounters with social injustice transform the way Guevara sees the world, and by implication motivates his later political activities as a revolutionary.

Guevara makes his symbolic "final journey" that night when despite his asthma, he chooses to swim across the river that separates the two societies of the leper colony, to spend the night in a leper shack, instead of in the cabins of the doctors. This journey implicitly symbolizes Guevara's rejection of wealth and aristocracy into which he was born, and the path he would take later in his life as a guerrilla, fighting for what he believed was the dignity every human being deserves.

As they bid each other farewell, Alberto reveals that his birthday was not in fact April 2, but rather August 8, and that the stated goal was simply a motivator: Ernesto replies that he knew all along. The film is closed with an appearance by the true life 82-year-old Alberto Granado, along with pictures from the actual journey and a mention of Che Guevara's eventual 1967 CIA-assisted execution in the Bolivian jungle.

Film locales

In a journey that lasts eight months, the partners travel over 14,000 kilometres, from Argentina through Chile, Peru, and Colombia to Venezuela. Key locations along the journey described in the film include:In Argentina, Buenos Aires, Miramar, Buenos Aires, Villa Gesell,
San Martín de los Andes, Lago Frías, Patagonia; in Chile, Temuco, Los Angeles, Valparaiso, Atacama desert, Chuquicamata; in Peru, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Lima; The San Pablo Leper Colony; Leticia, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela


* Gael García Bernal as Ernesto "Fuser" Guevara de la Serna
* Rodrigo de la Serna as Alberto "Mial" Granado
* Mercedes Morán as Celia de la Serna
* Jean Pierre Noher as Ernesto Guevara Lynch
* Lucas Oro as Roberto Guevara
* Marina Glezer as Celita Guevara
* Sofia Bertolotto as Ana María Guevara
* Franco Solazzi as Juan Martín Guevara
* Ricardo Díaz Mourelle as Uncle Jorge
* Sergio Boris as Young Traveler
* Daniel Cargieman as Young Traveler
* Diego Giorzi as Rodolfo
* Facundo Espinosa as Tomás Granado
* Gustavo Bueno as Doctor Hugo Pesce
* Mía Maestro as Chichina
* Alberto Granado as Himself (cameo at end of film)


The film was first presented at the Sundance Film Festival on January 15 2004. Later it was featured at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19 2004.

The film screened at many other film festivals, including: the Auckland International Film Festival, New Zealand; the Copenhagen International Film Festival, Denmark; the Espoo Film Festival, Finland; the Telluride Film Festival, United States; the Toronto Film Festival, Canada; the Vancouver International Film Festival, Canada; the Celebrating Literature in Cinema Filmfestival Frankfurt, Germany; the Morelia Film Festival, Mexico; and others.

Release dates

* United States: January 15 2004 (premiere at Sundance Film Festival)
* France: July 7 2004
* Argentina: July 29 2004
* United Kingdom: August 27 2004
* United States: September 24 2004
* Chile: October 21 2004
* Germany: October 28 2004

Critical reception

"The New York Times" film critic, A.O. Scott, wrote that "in Mr. Salles's hands what might have been a schematic story of political awakening becomes a lyrical exploration of the sensations and perceptions from which a political understanding of the world emerges." [ [ Scott A.O] . "The New York Times," film review, September 24, 2004.] Gregory Weinkauf of the "Dallas Observer" espoused that the film "delivers as both biography and road movie, and proves itself a deceptively humble epic, an illuminating part of the Che legacy." [ [ "The Importance of Being Ernesto", By Gregory Weinkauf, September 30 2004, Dallas Observer] ] Claudia Puig of "USA Today" postulated that "the movie achieves an impressive blend of emotional resonance and light entertainment" while describing it as "more coming-of-age story than biopic" and "a transformative adventure well worth watching." [ [ "Guevara's life takes shape in 'Diaries", By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY, Sept 27 2004] ]

Paula Nechak of the "Seattle Post-Intelligencer" praised director Walter Salles by remarking that he "presents the evolutionary course of a young man who coincidentally became the dorm-room poster boy for an idealistic generation, and captures the lovely, heart-and-eye-opening ode to youthful possibility with affection and compassion." [ [ "Motorcycle Diaries': On the road with a young Che", by Paula Nechak, October 1 2004, Seattle Post-Intelligencer] ] While "Washington Post" critic Desson Thomson lent praise for the films starring actor by observing that "what Bernal and this well-wrought movie convey so well is the charisma that would soon become a part of human history, and yes, T-shirts." [ [ "Viva Che!", By Desson Thomson, Washington Post, October 1, 2004] ]

Among the film's detractors was Roger Ebert of the "Chicago Sun-Times", who described the film's positive reviews as "a matter of Political Correctness, I think; it is uncool to be against Che Guevara." Ebert also criticized the film's characterization: "seen simply as a film, "The Motorcycle Diaries" is attenuated and tedious. We understand that Ernesto and Alberto are friends, but that's about all we find out about them; they develop none of the complexities of other on-the-road couples... Nothing is startling or poetic." [ [ Ebert, Roger] . "Chicago Sun-Times," film review, October 1, 2004.] Jessica Winter of "The Village Voice" criticized the film's simplistic representation of the peasantry, describing "the young men's encounters with conscience-pricking, generically noble locals" who are occasionally assembled "to face the camera in a still life of heroic, art-directed suffering". [Jessica Winter, [,winter,56962,20.html 'Child of the Revolution'] , "The Village Voice", September 14, 2004.]

The online review aggregator "Metacritic" records that 75% of 67 reviews were positive, while "Rotten Tomatoes" records 82% of 148 reviews. [ [ "The Motorcycle Diaries" at "Metacritic"] , accessed 23 March, 2008; [ "The Motorcycle Diaries" at "Rotten Tomatoes"] , accessed 23 March, 2008.] The film also received a standing ovation at the 2004 Sundance film festival. [ [,2933,108781,00.html Sundance Flips for Che Guevara] By Roger Friedman, January 19 2004, Fox News]


:"See The Motorcycle Diaries (soundtrack).The score for "The Motorcycle Diaries" was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla. The film's soundtrack was released on the Deutsche Grammophon label in 2004.


* Cannes Film Festival: François Chalais Award, Walter Salles; Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Walter Salles; Technical Grand Prize, Eric Gautier; 2004. [ [ Cannes Film Festival] awards. Last accessed: March 23, 2008.]
* Donostia-San Sebastián International Film Festival: Audience Award Walter Salles; 2004.
* Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song; Jorge Drexler; for the song "Al otro lado del río"; 2005.
* Argentine Film Critics Association Awards: Best Actor, Rodrigo de la Serna; Best Music, Gustavo Santaolalla; Best Adapted Screenplay, Jose Rivera; 2005.
* British Academy of Film and Television Arts: Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music, Gustavo Santaolalla; BAFTA Film Award Best Film not in the English Language, Michael Nozik, Edgard Tenenbaum, Karen Tenkhoff, Walter Salles; 2005.
* Goya Awards: Goya; Best Adapted Screenplay, José Rivera; 2005.
* Independent Spirit Awards: Independent Spirit Award; Best Cinematography, Eric Gautier; Best Debut Performance, Rodrigo de la Serna; 2005.

Other films

* "Chasing Che", 2007, developed by National Geographic Adventure, A ten-week series featured on V-me.
* "Travelling with Che Guevara", 2004, directed by Gianni Mina, Documentary, 110 minutes.

ee also

* "The Argentine (film)"
* "Che!"
* "Che (film)"

* Che Guevara in popular culture
* "Guerrilla (film)"
* The Motorcycle Diaries (soundtrack)



External links

* [ Official Trailer]
* [ Director Walter Salles] talks about "The Motorcycle Diaries"
* [ Walter Salles, The Motorcycle Diaries] by Michelle Bryant, Oct 5 2004, IFP
* [ How Has the World Changed You ?] - Personal Travel Testimonials
* "The New York Times:" [ "On the Trail of the Young Che Guevara", December 19, 2004]
* "San Francisco Chronicle:" [ "A Rebel-to-be Takes to the Road. Viva Che!", October 1, 2004]

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