The Motorcycle Diaries II: A Proposal for Robert Redford
Dear Mr. Redford,
I have a movie idea for you. I'm in the process of writing a screenplay and wanted to run it by you with the hope that you would be interested in producing my project. I call it, The Motorcycle Diaries II and since you produced the original, I thought you, more than anyone else, deserved the first opportunity.
I realize, of course, the original was theatrically irrelevant — and only marginally profitable — but the MTV generation has learned only of the first part of Che Guevara's brilliant life, and I think his subsequent years, historically speaking, were much more defining.
My story begins with the Che and the freedom fighters (or is it 'fighters of freedom' — no matter) entering Havana. There, our hero, a communist of the rigid Stalinist camp, is standing proudly by the side of some guy with a beard. The guy with the beard is in charge, but 'the Che', ever the devout revolutionary, is very obviously his right hand man.
Pan to the prison La Cabana, of course, we'll call it a fort. There, the Che is definitely in charge.
Here's where the film's big fun really begins. We pan to the Che: he is standing behind a prisoner; the prisoner is on his knees, his head bent forward; the Che is holding a .45 caliber handgun and has it pointed at the back of the prisoner's head; he pulls the trigger; we hear the explosion of the round leaving the handgun and the prisoner lurches forward and falls, crumpled onto the ground. He has been executed. We show the Che meticulously moving down the line to the next prisoner and we watch him repeat the action with another execution.
I know what you're thinking:
'What's the running time on this bad boy? The Che murdered at least 180 men at La Cabana.'
Don't worry, because of time constraints, we'll only show a few dozen. We'll focus on a particular threat to the revolution, a 14—year old boy who stood in the way of justice by trying to protect his father from the Che's firing squad. We'll flashback to his infamous quote about Guatemala:
'..if there had been some executions, the government would have maintained the capacity to return the blows.'
Well if some are good, several thousands must be better!!!
I think the message will be clear that the Che didn't tolerate treason! Kind of crazy when you consider that in the 229—year history of the United States less than 40 people have ever been brought—up on charges of treason, and fewer still convicted. Che, of course, didn't believe in trials, so the killers at La Cabana didn't waste time with anything as irrelevant as allowing the accused an opportunity to prove their innocence. What was it the Che said? Oh yeah, 'To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary," He was truly a philosopher poet.
When his heroic work was complete at La Cabana, the Che diligently begins what could possibly be his greatest legacy, masterminding the security apparatus which is to subjugate the entire population of Cuba for generations. Spurred on by the failure of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, our hero begins a new wave of executions. We'll later show Guevara boasting that these enemies of the revolution will never be seen or heard from again. No more counter—revolutionaries!
With Cuba mostly purged of the oppressive bourgeoisie, our champion starts establishing concentration camps. (That's a great word, "purged,' considering the Che was a strict Stalinist. We'll find a way to work it into the film.) We'll highlight the fact that in its very long history of oppression, not since the island nation's struggle for independence from Spain had there existed concentration camps in Cuba. (Remember those brutal, imperialist conquistadors from Spain?) But the Che, you see, was a visionary, and quite the modern man, giving the newly created concentration camp, Guanahacabibes, the politically correct name of "re—education center.' We'll have the Che explaining the decision to re—educate, when he said,
'[We] only send to Guanahacabibes those doubtful cases where we are not sure people should go to jail ... people who have committed crimes against revolutionary morals...'
What a concept! Establishing a prison camp where anyone even remotely a threat — real or perceived — to Cuba's new liberators could be sent for 're—education.' They could be trained in back—breaking forced labor, experience the intricacies of sadistic human torture as subjects and witness first—hand the art of suppressing dissent.
Now, I understand that most of those actually killed or imprisoned during this period weren't rich, or oppressors, or counter—revolutionaries, but, just like in The Motorcycle Diaries, why let the truth get in the way of a good story?
We'll show the Che's statesmanship — picking up our hero as he drives the once—thriving economy of Cuba into ruin as head of Cuba's central bank and Minister of Industries. We'll show the Che's innovative concept, the 'Military Units to Help Productivity,' as they round up all of the 'undesirables' and forcibly transport them to newly created re—education camps, ala Guanahacabibes.
How was the Che supposed to get any work done with all those lazy dissidents, homosexuals and Christians running around everywhere? Let's avoid the comments of his deputy Ernesto Betancourt:
'[He] was ignorant of the most elementary economic principles.'
Betancourt was probably a CIA—plant anyway. We'll show the collapse of the sugar industry and with it, the economy of Cuba (who could have known that dissidents, homosexuals and Christians were so good at harvesting sugar?). But, ultimately, who needs money with all its false embellishments? Yes, after taking power the Che moved into one of Havana's most exclusive neighborhoods, but he was a Bohemian who hated creature comforts since they makes men weak and he didn't want his fellow liberators to be hypnotized by the grandeur. What a comrade!
Not sure if we should touch on his trip to North Korea where the Che said that Kim Il Sung, the North Korean strong man, and the system he imposed on that country had 'impressed me the most.' Kim's kid has a bit of a PR problem, you know, with starving masses and being a nukes wholesaler to terrorists. This could lead to all those comments the Che made concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis. Remember:
'...this country is willing to risk everything in an atomic war of unimaginable destructiveness to defend a principle.'
The Che went so far as to give Khrushchev a list of potential US target cities. Later he made the comment:
'If the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression.'
Our US market may not feel a kinship with someone capable of nuclear annihilation. And we're not making a documentary here anyway —— this is a 'sell tickets' business after all!
The fun doesn't stop there. With Cuba solidly in the totalitarian camp, complete with all the grand trappings of Stalinist Russia — gulags, repression and religious intolerance — our dashing hero sets sail across the Atlantic to liberate the once—oppressed (or is it to oppress the once—liberated? Ahhh, the nuances of screenwriting.) Let's stick to the formula that worked so well in Part I: inspirational propaganda.
The world's favorite comrade arrives in the Congo among the wildest of beasts: the 'freedom fighters' of Mulele and Kabila (the Che thought the latter lazy and corrupt, boy wouldn't he be surprised!) Of course, by now its common knowledge that the Che is a Marxist and not the democrat he so craftily portrayed back in Cuba. Damn the free press, if only he had had the New York Times staff at La Cabana!
We'll gloss over the whole Africa experience where Mulele's forces massacred nearly 10,000 men, women and children, and Kabila would eventually prove the Che wrong in the 1990's. Well, at least, the lazy part; he butchered thousands tirelessly. The whole Africa experience wasn't a great episode in the Che's life anyway, considering every military operation he planned failed miserably. His own biographer said of his defeats, 'He was humiliated.' Hey, even Michael Jordan had a bad season and there will always be other countries to liberate.
Our grand finale is Bolivia. The Che, who never laid eyes on a country whose sovereignty he didn't want to interfere with, takes up arms against the hated military junta. Recruitment doesn't go well but we'll just say it was because Che and the people he wanted to free didn't speak the same language. Che and his boys spoke Spanish, and in Bolivia, well, they speak Spanish too, but they were after a different demographic.
We'll scratch the perplexed, whiny comment, 'The peasant masses don't help us at all.' The fact that there had been agrarian reforms the prior year and elections were scheduled for the following year certainly didn't help the Che's recruitment efforts. Never mind actually postulating a candidate; who wants to go through the rigors of a drawn out campaign when an insurrection delivers absolute power?
Let's not bring up the fact that the local communist leader aiding our man had been humiliated at the polls the year before. That had to have been yet another CIA plot. What's more, people don't really want to be burdened with voting for a president every four years anyway. We'll just give that job to a guy with a beard, a girly beret and green fatigues for life and be done with it. Besides, Bolivia should count itself as lucky being liberated by the great Che Guevara. Look at all of his accomplishments in Cuba.
The final scene needs a little revision, though. Bolivian soldiers and their allied CIA operatives closing in on the Che's jungle hideout (actually it was private property, land purchased by Bolivian communists; Quite ironic when you think about it, communists and private property!) and, just as they're about to pounce on our hero, the Che defiantly rallies the troops by screaming,
'Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.'
Not exactly the inspirational fodder his guerrilla band needed, but we'll gloss that over, juxtaposing, 'Shoot, coward! you are only going to kill a man', in its place. An absolute fabrication, I know, but we're in the business of false idolatry, and if you have to revise history here and there to sell a few tickets, well, it's a small price to pay.
The movie will be a huge hit. The movie merchandising alone is worth millions. I can see it now: the Che's image on key chains, mugs, posters, bumper stickers, and really obnoxious t—shirts. We may even get some brainless boxer/convicted rapist to tattoo the Che on his chest or arm! I mean who doesn't love a freedom fighter?
It's truly tragic that the Che didn't live long enough to take responsibility for the paradise he helped create in Cuba. I realize Cuba has the unenviable distinction of being the only country in the western hemisphere not to have held an election in nearly 50 years. And, despite massive annual handouts from the Soviets — nearing 35% of the island's GDP — its economy is in complete shambles. And, it consistently ranks among the worst human rights violators, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. But, is this the true measure of the Che's accomplishments? Any country can have freedom. Any country can have free elections. What's so great about free speech anyway? Do people really need the freedom to assemble and dissent? Who cares about a functioning economy?
Now, I know that several countries in Latin America had to spend lives and treasure to keep the Che, Castro and their Soviet patron from recreating Cuban—style revolutions — and these were lives and treasures they could hardly afford to lose. I also understand that his acts of sovereign intrusion led to needless bloodshed and added to local torment. Of course, all the countries the Che wanted to liberate in Latin America have become functioning democracies — without revolution — and most have either surpassed or are quickly surpassing Cuba's standard of living, despite Cuba enjoying a very high standard of living prior to being saved by Che and Castro. But can we really blame the Che and his vision for that?
Journalist Nat Hentoff recalls the Che's response to his poignant question after the Che's address to the UN in 1964, which is somewhat puzzling for a supposed democrat and fighter for the 'voiceless.' Hentoff asked,
'Can you conceive of any time in the future when there will be free elections in Cuba?'
Without waiting for the translator, Guevara laughed heartily and smirked, "In Cuba?" and walked off. Four decades after his death, the Che remains a man of his word.